Interview: Mara Wienke at Blendle tells us how aggregated content drives subscriptions

Alternative platforms such as Blendle, have emerged to fill the growing appetite for multiplicity.

Consumers are enjoying a wider variety of news than ever before. Younger readers in particular have become accustomed to reading from multiple sources, which has led to a pick and mix attitude to news.

This marks a major challenge for publishers as people rely less on a singular brand for all their content needs. Alternative platforms such as Blendle, have emerged to fill this growing appetite for multiplicity.

Blendle is a Dutch news platform that aggregates articles from a variety of newspapers and magazines and sells them on a pay-per-article basis. Currently half of their users are under 35. In this interview we talk to editor Mara Wienke about what’s happening in this emerging market.

We cut through the noise, and offer the content that's really worth their attention, by recommending it in a way that a (rather well-informed) friend would. We're accessible, that is key.

Blendle has been described as the iTunes for journalism. What are the advantages of providing the consumer this kind of flexibility?

The most obvious argument is that you pay only for what you read. And if you don't like it, you can ask for your money back. It's that simple. This allows the user to access great stories of their own choice, and the journalism is being paid for.

The iTunes comparison is one that sticks around, though I think of us more and more as a Spotify Discover Weekly for journalism: with every article you read, we learn more about what you like to read. How our mix of recommendations can tune in to that and how we can surprise you.

What challenges does this flexibility present to Blendle?

Like any media service, we have to fight for people's attention. We firmly believe quality journalism is worth your time, and your money. Yet in the end, we are depending on the user wanting to know more, hence opening our newsletter, or app, or platform.

Younger generations are more likely to pay for online news, what’s your current demographic and how do you appeal to them?

Half of our users are under 35. We're really happy about that – and of course we'd love to see that go up even more. We cut through the noise, and offer the content that's really worth their attention, by recommending it in a way a (rather well-informed) friend would. We're accessible, that is key.

We offer all the best content in one clean, pretty interface, without paywalls and without ads. So all you get to see is the actual journalism, all coming from quality sources.

Better online experiences push people to pay for news. How does Blendle’s platform encourage users to pay for news?

We offer all the best content in one clean, pretty interface, without paywalls and without ads. So all you get to see is the actual journalism, all coming from quality sources. I really like how we highlight our editors’ Staff Picks, which we call "must-reads". On top of that, the payment process is easy, and your money is supporting the actual journalism.

Are you considering having an all-you-can-read model in the future?

This year we launched our Premium subscription in the Netherlands, which is a hybrid model: it allows users to receive 20 already-paid-for articles per day. For now, we're excited to see where that takes us.

Is video going to be considered as something Blendle will also host on its platform?

We do aspire to become a marketplace for all kinds of journalism. So far, we've been doing this mainly via newspaper and magazine articles. We actually did feature a documentary recently. Some months ago, after the Dutch election, we hosted the documentary Jesse, about the rise of a young politician. It was a great experiment, and the responses have been encouraging.

On Blendle’s site it says that ‘Blendle causes absolutely no loss of subscriptions. Instead the opposite happens: some Blendle users start buying newspapers or even subscriptions’. Do you have any figures concerning this?

We match subscriber databases of publishers with our own user database to prove cannibalization doesn't happen. Papers often mention anecdotally that they also see Blendle as a marketing tool to get young people to pay for their content.

What is the most exciting thing Blendle is working on currently?

We just launched Blendle Stories on our app and platform, which works very similar to Instagram Stories. You get to see glimpses of different journalistic stories, and if a story sparks your interest, you can read the whole thing straight away. We're still tinkering, so I'd invite you to give it a go and let us know what you think!

 

Want to know what other factors drive consumers to pay for news? Download the Attitudes to Paying for News report by Kantar Media.

 

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