European news startup Blendle has already attracted funding from two of the biggest names in the media business — The New York Times and German publisher Axel Springer. Today it’s launching in the United States.
Blendle is betting that people are still willing to pay for journalism, but instead of charging them on a subscription basis, it’s charging per article. On average, newspaper articles will cost somewhere between 19 cents and 39 cents, while magazine stories will cost between 9 and 49 cents.
Publishers get to keep 70 percent of that money. And there are no ads.
This might sound suspiciously like fantasies from years past that micropayments would save journalism. But there are a couple of key distinctions. The biggest one is the simplicity of Blendle’s approach — this is all content in the Blendle app and website, so once you’ve provided your credit card information, you don’t have to worry about payment anymore. Blendle will just automatically charge you when you need to fill up your account.
In addition, you should only be charged for stories that you actually like, rather than random clickbait that tricks you into reading. If you read an article and it wasn’t what you were expecting, or if you just don’t like it, you can get a refund. You do need to select the reason for the refund, whether it’s because “the price is too high” or “the article is too short” or whatever, but that should only take a second.
Blendle co-founder Alexander Klöpping isn’t suggesting that everyone who reads the news will embrace this. However, for people who do appreciate good journalism and want to support it, this is a pretty straightforward option.
Oh, and if you click on a Blendle link through social media or Google and you’re not a member yet, you will need to enter your email address or connect to Facebook. But you’ll be able to read up to $2.50 worth of stories for free before you get charged for anything.
Blendle says it has already attracted 650,000 users in the Germany and The Netherlands. According to Klöpping, most of those users are under 35, and after period of testing things out, they usually aren’t asking for refunds — on average, there’s about a 10 percent refund rate, while more clickbait-type content, like gossip and lists, tends to see rates as high as 50 percent.
To be clear, Blendle isn’t completely throwing open its doors in the US as of right now. Instead, it’s accepting sign ups for its beta testing program. And it’s already got some big publishers on-board, including The Times, Condé Nast, Time Inc., The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and New York Magazine.
“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,” said Camilla Cho, New York Magazine’s executive director of business development and strategy, in the launch release.