The news service Blendle launches Wednesday in the U.S. with 20 news outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek. You pay 9 cents to 49 cents to read a story (with a refund if you don't like it).
For news outlets, it means a new source of revenue and a potentially younger audience. Readers can cut through the sludge of online content and get higher-quality stories from human editors and software formulas.
Although Blendle has more than 100,000 paying, active users in the Netherlands and Germany, it could be a hard sell for Americans used to free stories online.
For one, there's more online news available in English than in Dutch or German, and a lot of it is free. And news outlets that block almost all stories from non-subscribers are more prevalent in Europe, said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, a journalism teaching organization.
In addition, Americans also haven't warmed up to past micropayments efforts. Subscriptions with set monthly fees tend to be more popular than something that requires watching the tab. In music, for instance, Americans are increasingly spending more on subscription services like Spotify while revenue slips from downloads of individual songs and albums.
Edmonds is optimistic about Blendle, though, saying its payments technology is simple to use and could make it succeed where other pay-by-story efforts have failed. "I get pitched frequently about new ideas, and this is one that I think stands out as having a high potential of success and of impact," he said.
And any payments, however small, are better than nothing.
"If a customer chooses to buy just one article a day from The Wall Street Journal, then I'm happy they're choosing to do that," said Katie Vanneck-Smith, the chief customer officer for Journal owner Dow Jones.
She says it's not likely someone reading just an article a day would have subscribed anyway. But at the Journal's price of 39 cents a story on Blendle, that's $100 a year for the newspaper.