People want to read articles or want to follow specific journalists but aren’t particularly interested in the newspaper that it comes from anymore.”
That is the opinion of Alexander Klöpping, co-founder of Blendle, the Dutch news aggregator which enables users to pay for articles individually and offers them an instant refund if they decide the article was not worth their time or money.
The platform is the brainchild of journalist Marten Blankesteijn, who was frustrated that he could not share links to articles he had written for Dutch publications, the vast majority of which do not publish content online for free.
Instead, as is common in many other European countries, news outlets might operate a metered paywall model or publish editions only in PDF format on an iPad app.
Alternatively, a news outlet might have strictly separate editorial for print and online, such as De Volkskrant does, where stories which appear in print never make it online.
“In Holland there’s millions of people who still fork out over 300 euros for their print newspaper, so [publishers] don’t want to lose that, and I can totally imagine why you wouldn’t want to put that online for free,” said Klöpping.
“The problem is not that people don’t want to pay for [journalism], the problem is that it’s too hard right now, to have a decent micropayment system where it’s very easy to pay for articles.”
One of the things we wanted to solve is just make it really easy to pay for journalism
Alexander Klöpping, Blendle
“One of the things we wanted to solve is just make it really easy to pay for journalism – one account, one wallet and all the newspapers and magazines that you could wish for in one application. ”
Though Klöpping admits that publishers in the Netherlands, who were understandably concerned about losing subscriptions, took some convincing that Blendle was a viable idea, the platform now incorporates every major newspaper and magazine in the country, as well as four Belgian publications and one English-speaking one, The Economist.
Blendle has seen rapid growth since its launch in April 2014, amassing more than 100,000 users.
And although the platform has attracted people of all ages, from those users who have connected their account to Facebook (around half overall) Klöpping said that around two-thirds are aged under 40.
This demographic is often difficult for traditional print publications in the Netherlands to engage with, Klöpping said, where the average newspaper reader is in Holland is “in their 50s”.
“The fact that that the group we have [data on] is so young is very important to these publishers, and also for us,” he said.
“It’s evidence that it’s a new group that just currently doesn’t pay for journalism, and most of them for the very first time in their lives pay for journalism now because it’s available on Blendle.”
The audience base is mainly Dutch, which is unsurprising given that “99 per cent” of what Blendle offers is from Dutch publications, but Klöpping and Blankesteijn have plans to launch another platform elsewhere in Europe early next year.