blendle ipad
Credit: Image courtesy of Blendle.

Dutch pay-per-article start-up Blendle today announced its plans to expand the platform in the United States, launching with a beta version in early 2016.

Although the launch date and the list of US publishers that have partnered with Blendle will not be made public until next year, the initiative is the company's second expansion in less than twelve months, after rolling out the service in Germany in September.

Co-founder Alexander Klöpping said the project has been in the works since October 2014, when The New York Times Company and German publisher Axel Springer invested a collective sum of €3 million (£2,17m) in Blendle.

More than 120 German publishers and 60 Dutch news outlets, including newspapers and magazines, have signed up to the platform, and over half of the 550,000 registered users are under the age of 35.

"When we launch somewhere, we go through a couple of phases and we always focus on the biggest publications first," Klöpping told

"But eventually, we hope to have local US newspapers on board as well, as we already do in Holland and Germany.

"It's really nice to go through your timeline and see an article from a big, national newspaper, next to a piece that is really relevant to you, from a publication in your city or a place you used to live in."

He said Blendle hopes to apply some of the lessons it has learned from other countries to its upcoming launch, but there are also things that need to be done differently in each location.

For example, the service wouldn't work in a country like Austria, Klöpping explained, because "all newspapers put all their content for free on their own websites, as opposed to other countries, where there is a mix of models".

"But a country like the United States is very interesting for us, because publishers have content that either doesn't go on the web at all, or is behind a paywall, or gets published online only after a certain time has passed," he said.

There is also a difference in how people use Blendle and what they expect from the platform.

For example, in Germany, readers wanted a feature that would enable them to browse magazines by looking at the index page and navigating straight to their desired article, which hadn't been requested by users of the platform in the Netherlands.

"There are small cultural differences in how people read journalism and we want to adapt to it, which is why we start with a beta launch.

"It gives us time to figure out how people use the platform, if the process is different to how we've done it before and whether or not we need to change anything," Klöpping said.

One of the things that Blendle users in both Germany and Holland have in common, however, is "they don't mind paying relatively high amounts of money per article", he added, "and that's something that surprises me".

Publishers can set their own prices on Blendle, but the most expensive articles tend to cost around £0.24 for news or £0.63 for longer magazine pieces.

"People don't necessarily want to pay for the news, but they do want to pay for longform journalism.

"The articles that sell better are analysis pieces and interviews, rather than a random hot take on something that Donald Trump has said."

When Klöpping and his co-founder, Marten Blankesteijn, first presented Blendle's concept to publishers in the Netherlands back in 2013, nobody wanted to join the service, he explained.

But news organisations' feedback was taken into consideration and the platform was adapted to fit their needs.

Some of their requests included displaying articles in a publication's original style or never charging readers more than the price of a single issue. And soon, users will also be able to subscribe to a newspaper or magazine through Blendle.

"We try to keep a balance between what users want and what publishers want, and I think that's one of the reasons they are so keen to work with us.

"We are not Facebook or Apple, it's not a 'take it or leave it' thing. Our goal is to make young people start paying for journalism, and that's something we need to do together," said Klöpping.

As part of its expansion in the US, the company will hire an editor-in-chief, as well as a team of journalists, who will be in charge of the curation and recommendation process on Blendle, acting as "the voice of the platform".

"There are so many things that can go wrong, because there hasn't been another platform where publishers work together and sell their content unbundled, so this is really an experiment.

"But the goal is getting young people to pay for journalism in an age where ad blockers are everywhere and it's really important that good journalism is well funded, so we'll learn as we go along," Klöpping said.

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