The answer to ad-blockers; can Blendle bring journalists’ quest for a new business model to an end?


A couple of weeks ago, the debate on the usage of ad-blockers intensified when Apple announced that it will permit them on its mobile devices. The impact of ad-blockers on journalism and the advertising industry is likely to be huge. This post explores if Blendle, a Dutch startup backed by The NY Times and Axel Springer, could be the answer publishers are desperately looking for.

Back in the days, journalists used printed media to share news and other content. The business model was simple: readers paid a fee per edition or period of time (subscription). When the internet emerged as a new medium through which content could be shared, a lot of publishers started to provide free content through an ad revenue business model. Instead of the readers, the advertisers became the ones who paid.

345299fw wrote an interesting blog post on the rise of ad-blockers and the effect this could have on companies with a business model that revolves around ad revenues. As pointed out by the author, $22bn of ad revenue is estimated to be lost due to ad blockers this year. There are a couple of ways publishers could respond to this trend.

One of the author’s predictions is an increase in places where you need to pay to access content. Indeed, many traditional publishers (those creating newspapers and magazines) have developed websites where you have to pay to read the full article. A problem for the consumer who wants to read articles from multiple websites, however, is that he/she has to create an account and buy credits or a subscription at every one of those websites. For those people, Blendle could be a solution.

Blendle_Germany-700x467
Blendle German edition

Roughly 2 years ago, Dutch startup Blendle launched. Calling themselves the “iTunes of journalism”, Blendle operates a digital kiosk selling individual articles from almost all Dutch newspapers and magazines. This enables anyone to read and share articles from different newspapers and magazines, without having to pay for the entire editions. In September 2015, the company expanded to Germany.

The question is: could this be the solution to publishers’ decreasing revenues? Personally, I buy an article through Blendle only once a week, at most, but that’s because a lot of good content is (still) available for free. If the rise of ad-blockers indeed leads to a huge increase in places where you have to pay to access good content, I could decide to make use of Blendle more often. However, I do not think that all free content will disappear. Therefore, platforms such as Blendle will provide journalism with a nice stream of additional revenues, but I do not expect this to grow out into a stream as substantial as ad revenues.

345299fw (2015) Are you using an ad-blocker?, https://informationstrategyrsm.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/are-you-using-an-ad-blocker/

Cook, J. (2014) The New York Times and Axel Springer invest in a Dutch startup That Fixes The Worst Thing About Paywalls, http://uk.businessinsider.com/new-york-times-and-axel-springer-invest-in-dutch-startup-blendle-2014-10

Klopping, A. (2014) The first 30 days of the iTunes for newspapers,
View story at Medium.com

Lichterman, J. (2015) The micropayment platform Blendle is expanding to Germany, http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/09/the-micropayment-platform-blendle-is-expanding-to-germany/

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