Some of the biggest publishers in the US — including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Financial Times — have signed up to a new service that will allow them to charge readers on a per-article basis.
In total, 20 publishers (see the full list at the end of this story,) most of which already operate some form of paywall, have signed up as US launch partners with Blendle, the Dutch app that allows people to make micro-payments for individual articles.
Blendle already has more than 650,000 users across Germany and The Netherlands, where most of the major local publishers have partnered with the service. Blendle US will initially open up to a test group of 10,000 users.
Users register and enter their credit card details with Blendle just once. The service creates a type of digital newsstand that serves a feed of stories about the topics users are interested in, trending stories, and articles curated by their friends, celebrities and public figures, or Blendle's own human editors.
When users click on a headline, the publisher takes a small payment — ranging from around $0.09 to $0.49 — with revenue split roughly 30/70 between Blendle and the publisher. If readers don't like an article, they can get an instant refund if they provide feedback on what wasn't to their liking. The app also serves up full digital editions of newspapers and magazines.
Blendle's investors include The New York Times and Axel Springer, Business Insider's parent company. The company was founded by two 29-year-old former journalists — Marten Blankesteijn and Alexander Klöpping. We caught up with Klöpping about the launch.
Business Insider: Why start small, with 10,000 users to begin with?
Alexander Klöpping: Our mission is to help people discover and support great journalism. But something like Blendle, asking micropayments for journalism, hasn't been done before on this scale and with our broad support from media companies. So we want to do it well and listen very carefully to the feedback of our users first. That feedback from the early community is very important to us.
BI: What's the average nominal fee users will need to pay for an article? And are you still doing 70%/30% revenue split?
AK: Newspapers: between 19 and 39 cents per article. Magazines: between 9 and 49 cents per article. And yes, still 70% for the publisher, 30% for us.
BI: Have you only signed up publishers that operate some form of paywall model already? Do you plan to open this up to publishers that don't already have a paywall?
Alexander Klöpping: There is so much more content in English that a lot of people have a hard time filtering through the noise.
AK: The participating publishers use all kind of models: metered paywalls, hard paywalls, supported by ads. Publishers that also put content on the web without a paywall most often charge very little for their content on Blendle in return for a human-curated, ad-free experience. It's like the business class for journalism.
BI: What does success look like in 12 months from now? How many users will you have? How much money will you have made for publishers?
AK: Way too hard to predict. I think we'll know more after a couple of months. For me it's important that we hear and take on board what our community are saying.
BI: How do you think users in the US will differ in terms of behavior to your users in Europe?
(Alexander Klöpping/Corne van der Stelt2)
There is so much more content in English that a lot of people have a hard time filtering through the noise. We think a lot of people are looking for a little help: a service that shows you the eight to 10 new best articles from newspapers and magazines every day, and we get to include (and sell) articles from huge brands that are otherwise locked behind paywalls and subscriber only. Each handpicked by editors and filtered based on your tastes.
BI: How are you going to market Blendle? Will you be spending any money on marketing yourself? Or will you be relying on the publishers? Will they give you pro-bono ad space?
AK: We're used to our users sharing a lot of stories with their friends. They are our chief ambassadors. Publishers are obviously an important partner for us, and we’re always talking to them about how we can work together even more.
The complete list of Blende's US launch partners:
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
The Washington Post
New York Magazine
New York Review of Books
World Politics Review
The Huffington Post's Highline
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