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on media Raymond Snoddy on an initiative dubbed the iTunes of news


Something that’s worth paying for


A


s a journalist Alexander Klöpping’s achievements have been relatively modest and decidedly nerdy.


Mostly they have included writing for technology blogs in the Netherlands and tracking the latest technology issues for a Dutch tabloid newspaper. Yet, all journalists could turn out to be grateful to Klöpping and his Dutch partner Marten Blankesteijn, founders of Blendle, a digital kiosk that hopes to encourage consumers, and young adults in particular, to pay for individual articles online. The origins of the app were simple.


Klöpping and Blankesteijn were struck by the fact that their friends were perfectly happy to pay for music and films online but they didn’t know a single one who had ever paid for news. They believed that journalism is


worth paying for and decided to do something about it. They are at least addressing one of


the cruellest dilemmas at the heart of contemporary journalism and one that has not so far been resolved successfully. What do you do about the 80-20


conundrum – the fact that more 80 per cent of the revenues of newspapers on average come from declining print sales which continue to dwarf, in financial terms, digital revenues even though they have, in the main, been rising. Of course print and digital must be judged together and the combined influence and reach of the newsbrands have never been greater. Some lucky folks such as the Daily


Mail have been replacing lost print advertising with digital revenues. Worryingly, though the rate of


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Of course print and digital must be judged together and the combined influence and reach of the newsbrands have never been greater


advertising growth at Mail Online last year was around 16 per cent compared to more than 40 per cent in 2014, partly influenced by the rise of the adblockers.On-line adblocking is estimated to have cost publishers more than £15 billion worldwide last year and continues to rise. Blendle, which has been called the “iTunes for news” brings together articles from many newspapers and takes small payments for giving access to individual articles in the format of each publication. Admirers talk of Blendle’s seamless transactions. Subscribers set up an account with funds and the money is automatically deducted when they open an article. Users get their money back if they only glance at a piece, and can ask for a refund within 24 hours of purchase. Charges range from about 7p for a snippet to 20p for a more substantial piece to about £1.50 for a long feature. Blendle keeps 30 per cent of the fee. Blendle has agreements with more than 120 publishers and around 650,000 people have signed up in Holland and the company has already expanded into Germany. A US launch is planned


for early this year and tellingly both Axel Springer in Germany and the New York Times are investors in the start-up. Naturally Blendle also hopes to address the UK market and it would surely be worth a try. Almost everything is. Of course there are difficulties. Publishers are wary about exchanging micro-payments for whole tariff subscriptions – although Blendle also offers


subscriptions to entire publications. There are almost certainly no magic


bullets to solve the structural financial problems facing the funding of quality journalism but every new potential stream of revenue is welcome. There is still an obvious need for


an annual prize for innovation in the financing of newspapers in the digital world. And as Klöpping and Blankesteijn insist, quality journalism really is worth supporting and worth paying for.


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