BLENDLE: ITUNES FOR JOURNALISM? YES PLEASE

 

Like a song, but you don’t want to buy the whole album and the inevitable album fillers that come with it? Easy, you just buy the individual song on iTunes. If you want to take the legal approach that is. For the purpose of this post I’ll just assume that you do.

Want to read that interview with Taylor Swift in The Sunday Times? (Yes that was me last Sunday, no shame). You have to buy the whole thing, including 50 pages on sports you couldn’t care less about. You end up with a whole lot of paper that you don’t even so much as skim through, which means it basically travels from the news agent to your bin. Ecological? Not so much. Can we do better? I think so.

A couple of 27-year-old Dutch guys thought so too and they were kind enough to create a solution as well. May I introduce you to Blendle.

 MEET BLENDLE

The aforementioned Blendle is a start-up from The Netherlands, which is easiest (and frequently) described as the iTunes for journalism. On their web-app you can find a wide selection of Dutch magazines and newspapers you can flick through and read the intros of. When something spikes your interest, you can buy the individual article, but it’s also possible to buy the entire publication if you should wish to do so.

Blendle also has the obligatory social element covered. You can follow people with similar interests and browse through their journalistic recommendations. You can also make a ‘to read’ list which is great for list-lovers and busy people alike. If there is a specific topic you want to read EVERYTHING about you can install an alert, which warns you every time a new article on this matter pops up. Easy.

Blendle's user interface.

Blendle’s user interface.

I LIKE IT

I’ve given Blendle a go and I like it. The reading experience is good; scrolling sideways is surprisingly pleasant; and I’m sure that if you are the proud owner of a tablet, it’s even better. After reading an article you are given the option to ask your money back if you weren’t happy with it. If you decide to use this option, you have to give the publisher some feedback as to why you weren’t satisfied with the piece. A feature that surely isn’t viable when everyone asks for a refund for every article, but it does have its merits. Why? Well, very simply put: a lot of the articles are too expensive (in my ever so humble opinion).

 I can understand that the front-page interview in a 5 euro (fashion) magazine costs 89 cents, but 29 cents for an interesting albeit rather short article on textile factories in Bangladesh, when reading the entire newspaper only costs you 69 cents is way too much. That it would cost you a little bit more than the price of a standard newspaper to assemble your own custom paper of the day is only normal, but not 10 times that amount.

The money back feature. Just for research purposes this time, I actually did enjoy the Elle article.

The money back feature. Just for research purposes this time, I actually did enjoy the Elle article.

Blendle’s staff also makes a selection from the journalistic offerings of the day and provide a short description for each article. I think it would be useful if each piece had this extra feature as it makes it a lot easier to find out what the article is actually about. After all, not every intro is as to the point as it could be. The intro of this post for example, does it make clear what the rest of the post is about? No. I’d like to think it makes up for it in wit and mystery, but let’s not get into that.

All in all I think Blendle is an awesome idea. An idea that makes me wonder why 4587 people didn’t think of it sooner, but that’s how it always goes with the greatest of ideas.

I’m not the only one who thinks these guys are onto something. The New York likes it too. To express their fondness of Blendle they decided to invest 3 million euro in the start-up together with German publisher Alex Springer. How very nice of them.

Hopefully this means we’ll soon find quality journalism from all over the world in one easily accessible place.

Of course there already is a great amount of free news available online, but a lot of the (better) pieces are either in print or hidden behind a pay wall. Having worked as an online journalist I think it’s perfectly understandable that when you have to churn out 8 articles a day, it’s only normal that they aren’t all masterpieces. Hopefully this initiative will be a boost for both printed and online journalism and give journalists enough breathing space to write and create to their best capacity.

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