Major Publishers Back U.S. Launch of Micropayments Platform

Blendle Aims to be the Spotify or Netflix of Journalism

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Blendle Credit: Blendle

Time Inc., The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Condé Nast are among the publishers signed up to Blendle, a Dutch micropayments platform that launches in the U.S. today.

Blendle's ambition is to be a content platform for journalism in the same way that Spotify is for music, or Netflix for film. The service offers an ad-free, pay-per-story service across a range of different publishers, charging between 19 and 39 cents per newspaper article, and between 9 and 49 cents for magazine stories.

Editors, as well as algorithms, are employed to offer recommendations to readers, who can get an immediate refund if they don't like the article they've chosen. Around 10% of articles are refunded, falling to between 3% and 4% for serious interviews and analysis.

The platform, which operates a single account through which articles can be individually purchased, already has more than 650,000 users in Germany and the Netherlands, two-thirds of whom are under 35 years old.

Alexander Klöpping
Alexander Klöpping Credit: Mark Horn

Alexander Klöpping, a former journalist who co-founded Blendle in the Netherlands two years ago, said in a statement, "In times of information overload and clickbait it's really hard to find the best journalism being written every day. At the same time, huge amounts of people install adblockers, because they are tired of ads. We've proven the potential of Blendle's model ... Now we are going to try to replicate it in the biggest media market in the world."

Blendle's app and website will launch in beta phase, allowing a maximum of 10,000 people to sign up initially. Once feedback has been processed from the first batch of users, the service will be rolled out further.

Scott McAllister, SVP digital marketing and revenue at Time Inc., said in a statement, "Time Inc. is always looking for new ways to engage audiences with our premium content. Partnering with Blendle for its debut in the U.S. is an exciting opportunity to experiment with a unique distribution platform."

The challenge for Blendle in the U.S. is that – unlike in Germany and the Netherlands, where most titles are behind paywalls – there is plenty of high-quality, free content on offer. Mr. Klöpping is hoping the trend towards more restricted models will work in Blendle's favor.

It is not possible to identify a correlation, but the Economist, which uses a metered paywall online, has seen subscriptions in the Netherlands rise since it signed up with Blendle.

Camilla Cho, executive director of business development and strategy at New York Magazine, said in a statement, "While our digital revenue is largely driven by advertising, Blendle gives us the opportunity to dip our toe into micropayments and potentially increase the share of reader revenue in the mix."

The New York Times Company and German publisher Axel Springer own a combined 23% stake in Blendle. Advertising Age is one of the publishers participating in the initial launch, which also includes The Washington Post, The Economist, Financial Times, Newsweek, Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Review of Books.

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