For news sites, making money in an age of ad-blocking is a tricky question. At the moment, the choice seems limited to bombarding readers with ads, or else charging a subscription fee for ad-free access. The problem is that many users don’t want to pay several dollars to subscribe to a news source in its entirety for the sake of reading the one or two articles they stumble onto.
And that’s where micropayments might come in. Wired reports on Blendle, a Dutch media startup that’s expanding into the US. Blendle users pay a certain amount of money into a wallet, and then pay per article from that wallet. A newspaper story could range from 19 to 39 cents per article, while magazine stories would be from 9 to 49 cents.
Blendle has a number of newspapers and magazines participating at the US launch, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Time Magazine, New York Magazine, and Mother Jones. It has already racked up 650,000 users in Germany and the Netherlands. The company hopes that the relative simplicity of the digital wallet system, where they only have to make a single payment every so often, will attract American users.
The idea of per-article micropayments is not without potential drawbacks. Readers might not want the added friction of having to think about whether to purchase an article, rather than look for it for free somewhere else. Even if they’re fine with it, the notion of articles being for sale individually might lead less lucrative topics to get neglected in favor of the ones more people are willing to pay for.
But I personally like the idea of being able to pay to read just those stories that interest me. I certainly don’t want to read The Wall Street Journal cover to cover, and I can get most of the same stories from somewhere else. But occasionally a feature article or editorial does appeal to me, and it would be nice to be able to pay for just that one piece.