The co-founder of Blendle here, the startup from The Netherlands you mention in in your piece. We heard the same arguments many times in Holland before we started. The complaints totally disappeared in my country, after people really started using the site.
If you look at the idea of Blendle, I admit, it sounds pretty bad. Having to deal with paying for every article just sounds pretty horrible. Especially in times of Spotify. The thing is: Blendle is not about the idea. Or even the model of micro payments. It’s about the execution: offering completely frictionless micro payments combined with excellent discoverability of articles that are interesting to you, combined with the full scope of quality journalism. Our users seem to like it. I guess you have to use it to fully appreciate it (although I would understand it if your Dutch is a bit rusty. I admit it’s not the most beautiful language in the world. It actually sounds like the noise of a coffee grinder when you hear Dutch people talk).
You make it sound like a bad thing that one out of every five registered users start topping up their accounts with real money. To me, that’s pretty awesome. Especially because our users are quite young: 2/3 of Facebook-registrations is under the age of 35. And those users, tens of thousands of them after just 10 months (with zero euros spent on marketing), are paying for journalism like it’s the most normal thing in the world. I know — quite strange.
What we have proven in the Netherlands is that we generate a very decent amount of money (I can’t say how much, unfortunately) after only ten months. But more importantly: it’s money from people who weren’t paying for journalism before. My friends have never paid for music and movies, until Spotify and Netflix. And with Blendle, they’re paying for journalism, often for the first time in their lives.
We’re trying something new. In The Netherlands it’s working. And we’re going to try in other places soon, because of great enthusiasm from a lot of publishers (also in your own country).
For people of all languages, it’s great to discover fine articles, and be able to pay for them with one click, from one wallet, and always know that you can refund if you didn’t like it.
Blendle was lucky enough to be featured in a lot of newspapers and magazines around the world the last couple of months. Hence, I am checking Twitter a lot. Following links to The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and all kinds of websites in different languages, I bumped upon paywall upon paywall. Again and again it asked me to register before I could read more than two lines. Paywalls are annoying. Journalism should have an awesome user experience, also for non-avid readers of specific newspapers and magazines. We’re trying to fix that. I’m sure we can do much better, and we will. But our month-to-month growth and the average age of our users makes me pretty optimistic already.