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Could A Pay-Per-Article Approach Spell The End For Paywalls?

The New York Times and German publishing giant Axel Springer are investing in a pay-per-view news service that bills itself as "iTunes for the news."
Posted at 1:02 PM, Oct 27, 2014

It doesn't take an investigative reporter at The New York Times to figure out paywalls aren't popular with readers.

And that's where pay-per-view news service Blendle comes in. 

The New York Times and German publishing giant Axel Springer are investing a combined $3.7 million in the Dutch startup.

Blendle bills itself as a one-stop shop for your news. Users can pick and choose individual articles to read from a long list of publications Blendle has partnered with. (Video via Blendle

Think of it as an iTunes for the news. When you click on a headline, the app charges you a small fee, usually around 20 cents, to view it. The publishers take home 70 percent of the revenue. 

The business model been successful in the Netherlands, where the app was launched back in April. 130,000 registered users now have access to all major Dutch newspapers and magazines through Blendle. 

Question is, could its success in the Netherlands translate to other, bigger countries?

History would suggest otherwise. In 2010, The Times, along with The Washington Post and Gannett newspapers, invested some $4 million in a similar project called Ongo.   

It shut down less than a year and half after its launch. Harvard's Nieman Lab blamed a confusing pricing scheme and the fact that some of the content Ongo charged for was already free on the Web.

A writer at GigaOM suggests Blendle could meet the same fate overseas. The main reason? "There is an ocean of free news and information available already through apps like Flipboard or Zite, not to mention through a web browser."

Others argue Blendle has the potential to transform the way newspapers do business, much like the way iTunes and Spotify reinvented the music industry. 

Or as Blendle's co-founder put it in an essay he penned for Medium: "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 ... and you want everything in one place."

For now, Blendle's only available in the Netherlands. The company says it hopes to use the new cash to expand across Europe.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Blendle