Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Tinypass, Andrew Sullivan’s Favorite Paywall Operator, Gets a CEO and Some Cash

trevor_kaufman (1)Big month for Tinypass, the little company that helps publishers sell content online.

On Jan. 2, blogger Andrew Sullivan announced with much fanfare that he was using Tinypass to power his experiment in self-publishing, a move that generated an enormous amount of attention for the 12-person shop.

Now Tinypass has its own announcement to make: It has hired a CEO and raised $1.25 million in seed funding.

The money news comes with a caveat, because the company had raised the round throughout last fall; now they’re just making it official.

But the new boss is actually new: Trevor Kaufman comes to the company after a five-year stint working for ad giant WPP, who bought his Schematic interactive agency and kept him around to run Possible, a roll-up of other ad/design shops.

Tinypass is a spinoff of another e-commerce platform aimed at filmmakers, and it hasn’t had a CEO before. Up until now, it has been run by COO David Restrepo, who also happens to be a Schematic veteran. He’ll stay on, Kaufman says.

Now the job for the company is to build on the momentum Sullivan has generated. They have about 45 paying clients right now, but Sullivan’s spotlight has prompted 400 people to download their software for a test drive.

Tinypass is supposed to offer publishers maximum flexibility for selling their stuff. Sullivan is using it to create a sort of freemium/meter operation, but you could also use the software to put up a strict pay wall, or to sell content via a download model, or some kind of combination.

In most cases, Tinypass takes a cut of its publishers’ sales; for some large clients, it charges a license fee instead.

Kaufman has a whole pitch ready to explain why publishers might consider selling their content, instead of, or in addition to, relying on advertising. But you, clever readers, already know about the declining-CPM-and-increasing-inventory hamster wheel of doom that most Web publishers are spinning on. So, no need for that.

The bigger question for Tinypass is why publishers should work with them instead of several similar outfits. JournalismOnline/Press+ has been selling a version of this, mostly focused on daily newspapers, for several years. MediaPass does something very similar, and they claim “hundreds” of clients, including Weekly World News, the people behind Bat Boy.

But I bet “good enough for Andrew Sullivan, good enough for you” will work fine for a lot of people, at least in the short term. And perhaps with investors, as well — Kaufman says he expects to raise a Series A round in the near future.


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