Blendle isn’t just about unbundling the traditional news package. The Dutch startup is quietly building a set of tools for the publishing industry that goes well beyond selling stories by the slice within a neatly designed interface—with all the controversial economics that go with such a business model.
In a recent conversation, company co-founder Alexander Klöpping related an anecdote that piqued my interest.
On Sept 8 of this year, famous Dutch writer, poet, and essayist Joost Zwagerman took his own life in his Amsterdam house. Five days before, he gave a long interview to HP/De Tijd, a monthly magazine covering politics, culture, and science. In a moving exchange, Zwagerman revealed he suffered from an incurable disease. The story was to run in the magazine’s October issue due three weeks later. The publishers faced a dilemma. On the one hand, this was great journalistic material that shouldn’t be spoiled on HP/De Tijd free website, which serves mostly as a teaser for the print edition; on the other hand, waiting a month wasn’t a workable option. “The publisher called me to ask if Blendle could run the piece on a stand alone basis… We said yes, of course!” Once edited, the story was put on Blendle (use Google Translate) at a price of €1 ($1.30). As expected, it sold very well (Klöpping declined to give specifics). But more than that, weeks later, the move acted as a boost for the sale of magazine copies that featured the Zwagerman interview on twelve pages.
To Alexander Klöpping, the De Tijd tactic is the perfect illustration of an upcoming trend in which publications could use Blendle as a promotional vehicle for their content without giving away the value, the uniqueness conveyed to readers—a great story could go on Blendle as a prelude to more coverage in the full edition still in the making. “Our interests are aligned, says Klöpping. Many magazines could follow the same path. As an example, consider Vanity Fair’s high profile pieces such as Caitlyn Jenner’s. This completely changes the dynamic for important stories…” (No doubt that Klöpping pitched the idea to Condé Nast, to be part of Blendle’s next year push on the US market.)