Tinypass Lets Web Publishers Put Different Paywall Options in Play

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Figuring out how to make money from online content is still akin to trying to build the better mouse trap.

Publishers try many different ways to sell access to articles, videos, and other media—and sometimes fall flat on their faces. But one New York-based startup hopes to make it easier for such sites to figure out how to monetize their content.

Tinypass’s platform lets publishers choose from a variety of payment styles to sell access to their media. These paywalls can be set to offer limited previews to readers before they subscribe, ask for payment to view each video or article, or allow the audience to pay what they believe the content is worth.

CEO Trevor Kaufman says one size does not fit all publishers when it comes to monetizing online media. Many websites are still looking for the right way to make money, whether that’s through ads, subscriptions, or something else entirely.

“The business model for content on the Internet is pretty broken,” Kaufman says. While banner ads are widely used to generate revenue online, he notes that a few popular websites devour the lion’s share of that money. “You hear about online advertising numbers growing but those dollars are largely eaten up by the growth at Google, Facebook, Twitter, and similar companies,” he says.

That leaves millions of other sites, Kaufman says, to fight over the remainder of the online ad revenue pot. So Tinypass offers publishers a way to create paywalls that suit their respective audiences.

The company works with news sites, how-to publications, online educators, research groups, business information providers, and health websites, including Harvard Medical School, Hearst, NME (New Musical Express), and blogger Andrew Sullivan.

And Tinypass is growing as it pursues more customers. In November, the startup announced that it had raised $3 million in a round led by Cascabel Management and Plough Penny Partners.

With that funding also came a trio of executive hires. Matt Frazier was brought on as chief technology officer; he was previously with cyber security firm Mandiant, based in Alexandria, VA. Brian Carroll, a veteran of New York startup PlaceIQ and Web-services provider Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, MA, was hired as chief operating officer. Todd Trippany became executive vice president of sales and business development. He previously worked with Omniture, a unit of Adobe Systems.

Kaufman says Tinypass frees publishers from the headache of coding their own payment systems, which may change with the whims of the audience. For example, a site might want to switch from requiring paid subscriptions to giving away access in exchange for watching video ads. Bloggers can even let readers see articles for a minimum fee and then choose to pay extra—kind of like giving someone a tip.

Sometimes, publishers need a bit of help getting their sites started though before they are ready to take on regular subscribers. Websites that essentially need crowdfunding can use Tinypass’s Applause platform, Kaufman says. That lets them take donations on their own webpage rather than posting with a third-party site

But let’s get real—the public still may cringe at paying to see online content.

Making it easier to pay for access across multiple sites, Kaufman says, is also part of his company’s strategy. When someone subscribes to a site that uses the platform, their details can be quickly accessed to sign up with a different site that also uses Tinypass.

Founded in 2011, Tinypass raised a $1.25 million seed round in 2012. Kaufman, previously CEO of digital ad agency Possible, was appointed CEO of Tinypass a year ago.

He said the company hopes to land more deals in the spring that will spread its use among publishers in more countries. He also sees opportunities for Tinypass to use its technology beyond just creating paywalls.

“We’re getting into data collection and managing advertising,” Kaufman says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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