Thanks to the online news platform Blendle, we no longer need to subscribe to print media in order to keep up with the news, wider current events and prevailing opinions. Blendle has over 1 million users. But how successful and innovative is the news service, launched in 2014, really?
One company, two stories.
One: Blendle is a major success. Within six months of its launch in the Netherlands, its founders Alexander Klöpping and Marten Blankesteijn collected 3 million euros from The New York Times and Alex Springer SE. One year later Blendle expanded into Germany, with America to follow later this year. In August, the online news platform broke through the 1 million-user barrier.
Two: Blendle is not a success. Basically, all it does is repackage and sell an old product (articles written by journalists). The platform is mainly used by highly educated urbanites who follow the news anyway. And despite its many users, Blendle still hasn’t made a single euro of profit.
Two very different interpretations of the Blendle story. Either way, it’s undeniable that Blendle has brought much-needed innovation to the conservative world of print journalism. It’s also clear that the service has great potential – as demonstrated by the number of users, its collaboration with all major news publishers and the 3 million euros of foreign investment it has already received.
However, some analysts remain sceptical. ‘What Blendle basically does is to bypass the problem of a declining readership and a broken business model by looking for a more direct connection with a shrinking market’, says De Nieuwe Reporter. ‘Trying to find a connection with something that is in decline without changing the product is not innovative.’
When you look at it like that, platforms such as Vice (multimedia, subjective and participative journalism) and De Correspondent (interactive, using the expertise of readers) are more innovative than Blendle. And, although the online news platform is growing rapidly, its revenue per user is not high. Its total revenue is between 5 and 10 million euros a year. In an attempt to change this, Blendle recently announced a subscription system.
Still, Blendle did something right that its competitors didn’t. Rivals such as eLinea and MyJour never reached more than 40,000 users and are already bankrupt. The fact that people know Klöpping’s name plays a big part, as well as the investment by The New York Times. “Investors are vital, even more so than the users”, as Piet Bakker, lecturer in Multimedia & Journalism at Utrecht College, said to NRC Handelsblad.
And of course satisfied publishers. Of Blendle’s revenue, 70 percent goes to the publisher, which is then at least partly invested in better journalism. The relatively small football site Catenaccio made €2,100 after just one month with Blendle. This is allowing the site to publish more articles, provide better graphics, attract new authors and spend more time on articles.
No – when you look only at the product, Blendle isn’t very innovative. But by introducing a new way of bringing the news to the public and developing a new business model for publishers, it is both supporting high-end journalism and making it easier for people to share news stories.
That’s already a win. Now for the profits.