Blendle is the iTunes for journalism

Blendle in action

Clickbait Free Zone

When Steve Jobs launched iTunes, services like Napster were widely used to download music, but Jobs believed “that eighty percent of the people stealing music online don’t really want to be thieves,” he told Rolling Stone. They would pay for the music if he made it easy enough.

The founders of Blendle have similarly high regard for readers.

Blendle’s founders hope their app, which launched in the U.S. in March, will do for journalism what iTunes did for music.

Blendle is a news app that allows users to purchase articles from various sources. Rather than paying to subscribe online to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times, you can pay for the articles you’re interested in from these sources and a variety of others. Stories can be found through search and through the company’s custom discovery algorithm. You simply click to buy; articles range in price and usually are not more than 50 cents. The publishers set the price, which was probably one of the appealing aspects of the Blendle agreement for legacy media outlets.

Blendle co-founder Alexander Klöpping was inspired by yet another music service when he went looking for publishing partners. “I once read about how Daniel Ek, when he started Spotify, just went knocking on all record label’s doors in Sweden,” he wrote in a Medium post.

“So that’s pretty much what we did with publishers in the United States,” he wrote. “Cold emailed magazine executives. Blatantly asked newspaper CEO’s to dinner via Linkedin. Tried to meet with every person in publishing I could think of. And then, every month, I just took a plane from Amsterdam to New York City to go on knock on all those doors. For about two years.”

Klöpping perseverance paid off. Since launching in the Netherlands two years ago and expanding throughout Europe, the app has over 650,000 users, more than half are under 35.

“So many [millennials] have never paid for journalism, and they don’t even know what they’re missing,” Michaël Jarjour, the managing editor at Blendle Germany told us.

To help convince them to pay, Blendle offers a refund option. Don’t like what you read and get your money back. This feature amazingly has not been abused, said Jarjour. “Just under 10% of our users globally ask for refunds,” he said. “In the US it was much higher when we first started because everyone wanted to check that feature out, and see if it actually works.” It does.

Another way to get millennials to pay for journalism is through high-quality writing.

“Blendle became what is probably the only platform of the internet where clickbait just doesn’t exist. A truly clickbait free zone because here it just doesn’t work to trick people into clicking and then not delivering on promises made in the headline,” Jarjour said.

“People will just ask for their money back.”

Blendle is currently in closed beta in the US, but they’re inviting more people every day. You can sign up for an invite here.