ProPublica Takes Press+ Out For A Spin

ProPublica is going public today as the latest customer of Press+, the payment platform from Journalism Online.The investigative nonprofit is the most high-profile addition so far from a recent grant by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation designed to encourage its grantees to try new methods of raising money.

Via a statement, ProPublica GM Richard Tofel said the Press+ software “allows us to seek donations just as readers are accessing our content. Press+ also permits us to adjust how quickly readers are asked to contribute, and the language of our request, as we learn more about what to expect.” The idea is to match donation asks with reminders of the value of the content they just read. The system, which is metered and based on use, is set to go live this afternoon.

So far, the New Haven Independent is the only other Knight grant recipient to go public. JO says more will launch in the next few weeks but are not ready to announce.

Knight is covering the costs for up to 10 of its grantees to try meters, subscriptions or some form of pay mechanism via Journalism Online, founded last year by Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz. JO has been rolling out slowly with tests over the past few few months but has yet to achieve a major breakthrough. In some respects, the Knight grant has the potential to help it as much as the journalism nonprofits looking for a boost. For instance, people who sign up to make donations to one site can use the same account as other sites come online or to subscribe to other Press+ sites. That requires a kind of critical mass, though, something Press+ has yet to achieve.

News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). acquired an equity stake in the startup earlier this year but has yet to make use of it, at least, publicly. The media company has been looking for ways to aggregate content from multiple publishers into a single-pass solution but recently backed off its UK efforts in that regard.

Update: ProPublica is using a metered system that brings up a Press+ box after a reader opens a certain number of stories; it’s currently set for to show up at three and at 20. The language is gentle; the brief explanation by Tofel on the site is low key. As he put it via e-mail, “It just asks, doesn’t shut off content.” Press+ is in addition to the bright red donate button and form the site already uses but adds a recurring monthly option.