All of Germany just signed up to this micropayment app that people think is the future of news on the web

Can a Pay-Per-Article Approach Spell the End for Paywalls?

Blendle, the Dutch startup that allows users to pay small micropayments for individual newspaper and magazine articles rather than having to sign up to lengthy digital subscriptions, has just signed up all the major German national newspapers to its service.

Not just some of them — all of them. Eighteen dailies and 15 weeklies. The app now has an almost complete lock on national news in Germany.

That's big news, not just for the two-year-old start-up, but also for the wider digital publishing ecosystem. The success of micropayments models depend on well-known publications signing up. (Often, if just one publication in a particular market operates some form of paywall, readers will just look elsewhere to find their content for free.)

Blendle iPad App

Blendle CEO Marten Blankesteijn says in a press release: "The very best articles in the German language are published in print magazines and newspapers, or locked up behind paywalls. But many people don't have a subscription so they are missing all these amazing stories."

Newspapers including Bild, Die Welt, National, and BZ have joined Blendle Germany, alongside weeklies and magazines including Gala, 11 Freunde, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and Kicker.

Blendle users register and put in their credit card details just once. The service creates a type of digital news stand that serves a feed of stories about the topics users are interested in, trending stories, and those that have been curated by their friends or celebrities and public figures. When users click on a headline the app or website takes a small payment, with revenue split roughly 30/70 between Blendle and the publisher. And if readers don't like an article they can get an instant refund, if they provide feedback on what it wasn't to their liking.

The pricing is set by the individual publisher, but articles cost 20 cents each on average. Blendle tells us that publishers will be adding its micropayments service on top of their existing digital paywall strategies, giving readers choice on which route they would rather take.

The company, which was founded by two 28-year-old former journalists — Blankesteijn and Alexander Klöpping — claims to have attracted more than 300,000 users to date. It says Blendle has generated more revenue for Dutch publishers — where the majority of its users are based —than Apple.


Back in March The New York Times (which is also an investor in Blendle, alongside German publisher Axel Springer,) The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal signed up to experiment using the platform.

All signs are pointing towards Blendle's expansion. Klöpping hinted in March that the company may be setting its sights on France next, although the company has a rule that it will only officially launch in a country when two-thirds of the region's publications have signed up.

With the ubiquity of free content online, publishers have been experimenting with different ways to make money from their online properties. Some, like the Financial Times and New York Times, have gone down the paywall route. Others, like The Guardian and Mail Online are sticking to advertising-funded free content.

Technology companies are also working with major publishers to make the content consumption experience work better, load faster, and make more money through advertising revenue share deals.

On Monday, Apple introduced a News app that competes with the likes of Flipboard and claims to offer "the best mobile reading experience, ever." In May, Facebook partnered with nine major news publishers to launch a Facebook Instant, a feature that allows them to publish direct to its mobile app. And in April Google created a €150 million fund for journalism in Europe, partnering with eight European publishers to invest in training and research.

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