A Dutch pay-as-you-go news aggregator described by some as an iTunes for journalism is about to hit the 200,000 user mark – and is considering Scandinavia as the first stage in its overseas expansion.
Blendle, which received $3 million (£197.4 million) in backing from the New York Times and Axel Springer last October, looks set to make one of its publishing partners, the Dutch daily De Volkskrant, about €100,000 (£76,299) in revenue this year, according to the service's head of international strategy Thomas Smolders.
Speaking at the Future Media Lab conference in Brussels today, Smolders said 195,000 people had signed up so far in the Netherlands, but added that "in order to become profitable we have to go abroad, so we're researching markets we can expand to".
Blendle launched in April last year, allowing users to read individual articles that are usually behind a publisher's paywall – and offering them an instant refund if they decide the article was not worth their time or money.
The platform incorporates every major newspaper and magazine in the Netherlands and publishers are free to set the cost of their articles, generally between €0.10 and €0.79.
Smolders said: "The entire world is watching – if it works in the Netherlands, might it work elsewhere? It's an experiment."
He said it took four years to convince some Dutch publishers they should join the platform and that it would not kill off their existing print subscriber base.
Instead, Blendle has shown that it attracts a separate, complementary audience.
Smolders added: "Now we have the data from the Netherlands we can prove it's a different public – that young people will pay for journalism. We can use this with publishers abroad.
"Our biggest competitor is free quality online journalism, the big newspaper that decides to put its cover story for free online."
Smolders said Scandinavia, and particularly Sweden, "might be an interesting market" for expansion.
He put out an appeal to publishers at the conference to share their advice on whether the Blendle concept might or might not work in their home country.
Asked if he envisaged there being a day when Blendle might publish its own original stories, he said nothing was ruled out, but added: "At this point we would say no – we would become a publisher ourselves. We don't have time."
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