The (un)tenability of Blendle & other collecting platforms

It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. DPG Media has canceled its collaboration with Blendle as of April. Despite Blendle’s frantic attempts to stop this through the courts. DPG is said to have an economically dominant position, due to the large number of (daily) newspapers that they publish and distribute through Blendle.

‘Unlimited magazines and the news of all k(r)anten’ for a tenner a month therefore no longer seems to apply. Because with the departure of DPG Media, dozens of titles have disappeared from the range of the digital news kiosk. The only Dutch newspaper that remains is the Nederlands Dagblad. The offer comes together with the Flemish newspapers De Standaard, De Tijd and Het Nieuwsblad Dutch newspapers on four.

That is not only a downer for the subscribers, it ‘gnaws at the survival of Blendle’, says Blendle director Willem-Jan Lems in a comment† As good as Blendle’s concept is, its survival is based on the offer, which is thinning out considerably.

It makes me wonder: is the withdrawal of publishers or content creators the inevitable fate of more (initially so) innovative collecting platforms?

What went wrong between Blendle and DPG Media?

From 2014, Blendle ensured that many newsreaders who previously did not pay for journalism, did so. At that time, newspapers and newspapers did not have much to offer digitally and the sale of individual articles on Blendle was a godsend.

The reason for the withdrawal of DPG Media is, among other things, Blendle’s changed business model. Because paying per item was not profitable, a few years later a ‘all you can read‘ subscription introduced. ‘Netflix for journalism’, Blendle founder Alexander Klöpping called it. Where you can read unlimited for a fixed amount. But that competes with DPG Media’s own (digital) subscriptions and generates too little income for them. Blendle would even be ‘cannibalizing’.

Supply of Dutch-language newspapers on Blendle on April 1, 2022, via Blendle.com

Are your own subscription forms more interesting?

You could say that Blendle acted as training wheels until newspaper publishers could cycle themselves. Because nowadays (daily) newspapers themselves seem to be successful in offering and selling digital subscriptions. Would you like to read the NRC and the Volkskrant now? Then you have to take out different subscriptions again.

Paying for access to journalistic articles or a library with a wide range of video content or reading and listening material has become the most natural thing in the world. Partly due to subscription forms such as Blendle’s and the increase in pay walls at online newspapers.

But subscriptions to individual content creators, including journalists, are also on the rise. In an earlier Weekly I already wrote about that† I was skeptical, because by taking out a separate subscription for everything, it becomes fragmented and I feel like I keep making (small) payments.

In the newsletter of Villamedia Nick Kivits cites an article by tech and media journalist Simon Owens confirming that feeling. The attractiveness of a collection platform as opposed to ‘micropayments’ is according to Owens in the psychological aspect. According to him, a subscription that gives access to a wide range of articles feels a lot more valuable than an article that you purchase separately for a small amount. Even if you don’t even read a lot of the offer on such a platform. The chance that someone who buys individual items will pay for a subscription is smaller, according to Owens.

I recognize that psychological aspect. I also rather pay for a Netflix subscription than for a single film. Moreover, I discover other offers on Netflix, which makes me stick around longer. Surely that is a more sustainable relationship than paying sporadically for a film at Pathé Thuis, for example.

Is a collecting platform like Blendle not sustainable at all?

The future of Blendle is uncertain with the departure of DPG Media. But that does not mean that the concept of a platform where you can read, watch or listen for an unlimited amount for a fixed fee cannot be a success. The question is whether such a concept is attractive enough for news media.

For example, Storytel (where you read and listen to unlimited books) and Readly (where you read endless magazines) seem to be doing better at the moment. With these apps you don’t have a newsstand, but you do have a kind of ultramodern library in your pocket. At Readly, the reading time per magazine is closely monitored and the income is divided proportionally between the publishers.

In the field of podcast subscriptions, the Danish startup Podimo make an attempt in the Netherlands† Unlike the subscription models from Spotify, Apple and Friend of the Show where you can pay podcasters for exclusive episodes, Podimo gives you access to a bundle of exclusive podcasts for a fixed amount per month. How that will be received remains to be seen.

Unlimited consumption or just tasters?

As a consumer, I can imagine that some collecting platforms will serve as a kind of tasting room where you try a few ‘flavors’ for a while, before you take out a separate subscription to your favorite.

But is it only a matter of time before publishers and makers, as with Blendle, withdraw from (or different) platforms such as Storytel, Readly or Podimo and ‘cycle independently’ with their own subscription offer? Or will there be ways to provide sufficient benefits and revenues as a collection platform to keep it attractive for all parties in the long term? I’m curious what you think about it!

This article originally appeared in the Frankwatching Weekly. Would you also like to receive this Saturday edition in your mailbox? Register here.


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