The Dutch revolution in journalism: all newspapers behind one paydike.

The nicest paywall in the world comes from Holland.

Blendle is a small journalism startup from The Netherlands. Recently, we (two 27-year old founders) got all major newspapers and magazines in the country to start a revolutionary experiment. The Netherlands will be the first country in the world where all articles of all newspapers and all important magazines will be available in one web app, with one pay wall, where users will only have to pay for the articles they read. We think that unbundling of journalism is the Holy Grail in getting young people to pay for journalism again.

Journalism needs an iTunes

Not so long ago, people didn’t think individuals were ever going to pay for music again. Pirating was so widespread that a lot of people thought: What service could possibly beat free downloading? And then came iTunes. And then came Spotify. For the first time in their lives, our friends are paying for music. And it doesn’t stop there. They also spend quite a lot of money on apps, even paying for movies and TV-shows with Netflix. However, none of them pay regularly for journalism — they never have. And a lot of publishers think they never will.

If anything, the music business has taught us that consumers want a simple way to pay for content. As a consumer, you only want to pay for content you actually consume, you want algorithms and social to help you filter, and you want everything in one place. While consumers changed, newspapers and magazines didn’t adapt.

To this day you still need to register at every newspaper or magazine you want to read while paying monthly fees for every site or for a bundle of articles with all kinds of stuff you don’t read. The editors still make a non-personalized selection for you, and every newspaper has its own website.

Journalism needs an iTunes.

After the record-breaking crowdfunding success of De Correspondent (raising $1.7 million for a new internet publication), The Netherlands is now on the brink of starting another revolutionary journalistic experiment. What happens if all major publishers in a country join forces, bringing all articles written in a single country together and ensuring they are readily available in a single app, and all payable from a single wallet? That’s Blendle.

A profile page in Blendle

How does it work?

Within Blendle, users can see what articles their friends or interesting curators (celebrities, journalists, politicians, radio DJ’s) have shared from the paid sections of today’s newspapers and magazines, and which articles are trending on the platform. The app also enables anyone to share articles from Holland’s best journalists on Facebook and Twitter. No more signing up with different paywalls for every newspaper. Users pay with a single click, and only for the articles they read. New users get €2.50 for free, and can then top up their Blendle wallet.

Until now, it was not possible for Dutch consumers to search for premium content from newspapers and magazines. Blendle is the first paid search engine for newspapers and magazines in the country. If a user wants to follow everything about specific subjects — say, the situation in Crimea, or bitcoins, or their favorite author — they can set email alerts for those words.

Users always pay a price per article (set by the publisher), but are also able to refund their money if they don’t deem the article worthy after reading it (a fair use policy applies). It’s a pretty cool function that greatly increases the amount of money spent on journalism in the beta.

Blendle is in the beta right now, and our 12 person team is already finding all the attention in The Netherlands overwhelming. We’ve got a few thousand people in the beta, and 15,000 waiting for access before we’ve even launched. Beta testers tell us that they started to read more and pay more for quality journalism. I’ve never seen this much excitement for the core business of Holland’s big publishers: great journalism.

“I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10x to 100x the size of where it is today.”
- Marc Andreessen, inventor of the web browser and partner at VC at Andreessen Horowitz

We think so too. And it starts with catering to the new generation. They want to read quality journalism, and would even like to pay for it, but on their terms.

Having beers on a Friday night after a long day of coding, our intern proposed to put a Blendle invite on the Dutch version of Craigslist. We thought it might be a nice marketing gimmick, but were hesitant of the value, so we were ready to bid ourselves if the bids didn’t go higher than 10 euros. We were surprised that the price quickly rose to €95. The winning bid came from a 19-year old kid who said: “I didn’t want to wait anymore for access to the beta”. And there you have it: a 19-year old kid, paying 95 euros to be able to pay for journalism. This is going to be awesome.

Blendle launches in April in Holland. Other countries will follow.

Moving images!