As publishers face their next existential crisis – there are many options from which to choose, including Substack stealing all of its authors; Or the clubhouse engaging people through audio-based conversations where news and analytics seamlessly converge with networking – a startup that is helping them build more tools to keep their businesses and audiences intact , And is hopefully developing, announcing its own development round.
Piano, which provides analytics and subscription services to publishers, has closed a $ 88 million round, which it uses to continue to build the technology it provides to its customers, as well as to create new areas Will where it can connect better. Audience online.
Money comes on the heels of a strong period for the piano. The company works with about 1,000 customers – they include CNBC, Wall Street Journal, NBC Sports, Insider, The Economist, Gannett, Le Parisien, Nielsen, MIT Technology Review, The Telegraph, South China Morning Post and (Disclaimer) ClearTips ; And it has seen a 400% increase in revenue since 2019.
Piano has an interesting new backer this round which can indicate what form those new areas of development may have. LinkedIn, a Microsoft-owned social networking site aimed at the working world, is participating in this Series B, led by previous backer Updata Partners. Rittenhouse Ventures, based in Piano’s hometown of Philadelphia, is also participating.
(Piano is not disclosing the valuation with this round, but I understand that it is currently running at a $ 75 million annual run rate. It has now exceeded $ 241 million.)
Piano CEO Trevor Kaufman would not be told how it would work specifically with LinkedIn, but it is notable that the latter company stepped back from leveraging the profiles it had on its 740 million users and did much outside the core is. LinkedIn Experience.
It can be implemented in many ways, for example on third party sites similar to Facebook and Google login; Or to provide an identity layer for commenting on stories; Or even creating a way to manage logins through a LinkedIn profile, potentially used to help people manage and read / consume all the content they subscribed to can go. Or something completely different: LinkedIn has too much unrealistic capability that a piano can help tap.
Scott Roberts, VP and Head of Business Development at LinkedIn said, “Members are increasingly turning to LinkedIn to be aware of the news and ideas that are shaping their respective industries – the key to this is the work that we as trusted publishers And do with journalists. ” a statement. “The opportunity to collaborate with Piano to help unlock more value for publisher content on LinkedIn makes it a natural strategic investment opportunity.”
In the past year many of us have spent significantly more time indoors, and for many of us it also means more reading, especially shorter and more digestible formats such as periodicals. In a way, it is no surprise that models like Substack have emerged and apparently flourished in this period, where authors are looking for different ways and ways to engage with readers, while publishers and larger Preserving costs and strategies to deal with storms at scale.
The rise of the piano in that context is particularly interesting, as in many cases it is not re-inventing the wheel for publishers, but rather providing them with the tools to better take advantage of the already existing content production. The remarkable thing is that in the process, it is able to capitalize on the changing sentiments in the publishing industry. While paywalls and subscriptions have in the past been seen as a drag on traffic (and ads sold against it) and are only useful to those in the B2B world, they are now increasingly in a wide range of settings Are becoming more common, Kaufman said.
Piano instruments are not only notable as a basic lever for managing subscriptions (free and paid), but a more sophisticated set of analytics that provide more insight into how content is being read, Which can be used to develop those membership levels and determine probability. Number of people subscribed (Neiman Lab has a good article on how it works).
To add to this, now another area where there is potential to develop more piano products is the area of newsletter. No, not the substack type, but creating tools for publishers to help build a newsletter business that they can monetize if they want. Indeed, another type of newsletter venture is far from piano’s agenda.
“I can’t imagine a unit more damaging to journalism than Substack,” Kauffman told me. “I think it has attracted the writers’ extreme attention because it is like a fantasy come true for journalists, the idea that you can earn $ 500ka a year for writing on occasion. But nothing far from the truth so may.” He believes the model is so “pumped up venture funding” that it is not viable for the long haul.
It remains to be seen, I think, and of course Piano has a strong vested interest in supporting its publisher clients. This mainly says for me that there are still a few innings left in this game, and perhaps a few more games in the longer series.
Given how fragmented the audience development, analytics and measurement space is, the company may also dive into more M&A. In March this year, the company acquired AT Internet, a French company to better manage and crunch analytics from multiple silos, including traffic, advertising, subscriptions, engagement, and more.
John Seeber, general partner and a member of Updata Partners, said, “Piano’s recent growth has been excellent, and we are impressed by the expansion of capabilities for both media companies and brands who want to get more revenue from their audiences.” ” Piano’s board said in a statement, “They now have a true end-to-end platform that can power all aspects of the customer journey, allowing them to create the best experience for their customer users from all touchpoints only. Can include the highest quality data. “