Has This Dutch Startup Solved the Problem of Paying for Online Journalism?

By We Photo Booth You

One of the most frustrating aspects of getting your news online—we know that some small part of you misses getting the newspaper—is when you find an interesting story but can’t read it unless you subscribe and pay for the service. Information on the Internet should be free, right? Besides, you can always find a summary of the article somewhere else for free.

But if you pay for the physical newspaper, it makes sense that we would have to pay for the information online as well. The truth is many people feel limited by the payment options for the online journals and news sources.

Alexander Klöpping, co-founder of the website and app Blendle, is one of the many who is frustrated by the paywall strategies many news sources follow.

“Every time I go to a website, only to bounce off to a registration screen—we need to solve that,” he said. “I don’t care if that’s me, or someone else.

“I’ve spoken to so many publishers and I get depressed when everyone is copying the New York Times and the Financial Times [in their paywall strategy]. This is true for every local newspaper in Holland, every national newspaper in Germany, the fact that there’s so little experimentation: That’s a little bit depressing for me.”

His solution to the problem is simple: pay by the article. Klöpping’s app offers all of the major national newspapers in the Netherlands. Users of Blendle make micropayments for individual articles instead of paying monthly or annual subscriptions. The most interesting part? Readers can receive a refund for articles they didn’t like, as long as they provide an answer as to why they didn’t enjoy it.

“We see excruciatingly high refunds for gossip magazines, which are basically clickbait on print,” he said. “Users are making an honest decision by paying, and if it doesn’t deliver, they ask for their money back. The system sees how often people ask for their money back.”

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Out of 200,000 Blendle users, 20 percent of them are paying users, and only 5 percent of the articles read are flagged for refunds.

Klöpping wants to expand the app to other countries, but is only interested in doing so if two-thirds of major new sources are committed to the app. Major investors are very interested in the opportunity Blendle is providing readers, and German publishing giant Axel Springer and The New York Times have both invested.

“We put all the newspapers and magazines from one country into one system and got young people starting to pay for journalism… [and start getting them] in the habit of paying, like they do for music and films nowadays. I don’t know anyone my age [Klöpping is 28] that has paid a single Euro in his life for journalism, but we are seeing people are paying.”

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Information sourced from Business Insider Australia.


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