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Zette, a service that allows users to access paywalled content with a single subscription, launches

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

Zette, a venture that partners with publishers to allow its users to access paywalled digital content from a single membership, has officially gone live to the public.

The service starts at $9.99 a month, which includes 30 article credits good at participating publications. 60 credits are available for $19.99 a month, with 90 priced at $29.99. The latter two plans include the ability to rollover up to each plan’s one-month allotment of credits (so a user could potentially have up to 120 or 180 credits per month).

Zette requires installing a browser extension and notably does not work on mobile devices, though the company says it is working to offer mobile access later in 2023.

This technical requirement likely stems from the fact that the 100-plus publishers available at launch use a variety of platforms to publish articles and the extension includes a way to verify the user is a Zette subscriber and bypass any article-blocking features such as modals, overlays, blurred text, surveys and login screens.

Publishers at launch include a variety of larger newspapers such as the Miami Herald as well as smaller market publications. Content from magazine publishers Forbes and New Scientist is also included, as well as Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The list of partners does not include other notable national publications at launch.

Depending on which publications are read, the $9.99 base price can be roughly on-par with the standalone subscriptions sold by a publication, though some charge more per month but typically offer unlimited digital access.

Zette appears to be targeting itself more toward readers who want to support local journalism. It also would be most appealing to users who have a regular need to access content from more than one of the publications on the list since, in most cases, someone who reads only one local newspaper, for example, would likely benefit from paying a similar or less amount for unlimited views.

Although Zette has not publicized its business model, some basic math shows that all three plans come out to about 33 cents per article assuming a subscriber uses all of the credits each month.

Zette presumably shares that revenue with publishers, who are likely to want a decent chunk of that given that they are generating the paywalled content. Even if one were to assume at 50-50 revenue split, that means each publication would bring in around just under 17 cents per article (this also assumes that Zette uses a flat-rate revenue share model).

It’s also possible, though not confirmed, that Zette is subsidizing plans at launch, paying some or all partners more per article view than it brings in from subscription fees.

Like any credit-based service, Zette likely banks on at least some readers not using all of their credits in a given month.

It’s possible that Zette uses a model similar to streaming and digital music services with at least some publishers, meaning that a set percentage of each user’s monthly fee is dedicated to a “pool” of money that is then split between partners using a pre-defined formula. If that model is used, users who don’t use up all their credits each month could mean that publishers of content they do view would make more per view.

This model would likely guarantee Zette keeps at least a portion of each user’s monthly fee, which could be necessary to fund its own operations.

TV stations and networks, who have largely kept their content available for free and without paywalls, are also not included in Zette. Newspapers, however, have largely switched over to a paywall model where all or most content requires a paid subscription.

Many publishers allow users to access a limited number of articles for free each month — often around five or 10 — before they have to start paying. Others lock all or most of their content behind a paywall.

The potential value of a Zette subscription could also be affected by the number of free articles a particular publication offers each month. For example, a user who likes to read major stories from a hometown newspaper a few times a month likely wouldn’t benefit from Zette, but someone who checks in daily would.