The idea of convincing readers to pay a few pennies to read a single article has been largely scoffed at over the years, but Blendle may have cracked the code, at least a little bit.
Launched two years ago in Europe, Blendle says it just surpassed the one-million-member mark. It’s getting hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors and 20% are converting into paying customers. Users will have read more than 20 million articles on Blendle by the end of the year, Managing Editor Michaël Jarjour told TechCrunch. It’s backed by The New York Times Co. and German publisher Axel Springer, and features content from an assortment of big-name publishers.
Users pay a few pennies to read an article and have the option of requesting a refund if they don’t like what they see. Refund requests must include a reason, a hitch Blendle adds to prevent abuse. Jarjour said the company employees 15 journalists who comb the Web looking for worthwhile stories that are hidden behind paywalls.
Blendle has elements of Flipboard, Nuzzel and other social news services in the form of human-curated feeds. If users provide access to their social network accounts, Blendle will add durations from friends into the news feed. A new service called Blendle Premium Feed is powered by a combination of algorithmic predictions and recommendations from friends.
So what will people pay to read? Not news, apparently. “We’ve seen that our users don’t like to spend money on the news,” wrote co-founder Alexander Klöpping in a Medium post announcing the company’s entry into the U.S. market. “What our users do like to read is investigative reporting, revelatory background articles, newsworthy analysis and hard-hitting interviews.”