2015 promises to create significant change in the way that content is created, posted and consumed.
This year we have seen a steady rise in the numbers of companies who have looked at content as a necessity rather than a nice to have. It means that more and more content is becoming available, but with the increasing numbers of content creators, the amount of poorly written or factually incorrect articles is higher than ever.
Finding the good articles is taking longer and people are no longer looking at a title as a reason to reason an article, it is often a reason to not read it. At the bottom of many webpages, there are adverts to other articles from across the web, which provide exactly what we are talking about. They provide eye grabbing headlines followed by poor articles.
Blendle, a Dutch startup have looked to change this by creating an ‘iTunes of journalism’. Each article is paid for, but people know that it comes from a trusted source and is well written. According to the Guardian it has changed the way that the Netherlands consumes its content, but will it catch on in the rest of the world?
Yes It Will
We have seen that pay walls are not the most popular amongst the public, but they are keeping newspapers afloat at a time when many are going out of business. The Times is now almost in profit again after their move to a paywall, and the Financial Times is also seeing positive results. Blendle’s model works by selling each article for around 20 cents, so works in a similar way to a paywall, but with a ‘pay-as-you-read’ model rather than a strict subscription model that most paywalls consist of.
Having a single repository for articles is going to mean that people are going to be able to find anything they want in one place, no need to look through hundreds of articles on the same subject to find something good. This could show that people may be willing to pay for the privilege of not needing to filter through the unnecessary, whilst also having a variety of topics and perspectives to choose from.
No It Won’t
There are millions of places of to get content for free, both online and offline. If you want to read about the latest headlines you can simply use Twitter or any newspaper that doesn’t have a paywall. People would be unwilling to pay for an article when they could find it elsewhere. The Guardian is a prime example of this, where they have kept a free-to-use website and seen impressive traffic numbers alongside good advertising revenue. Meanwhile, the Sun, who went to a paywall model, have seen their traffic fall by over 62% and forced their readers to look elsewhere for their content.
The best writers generally gravitate towards the biggest newspapers and the biggest websites. The ultimate goal may be to get paid for what you write, but it is also about creating a name for yourself and being seen as a social commentator. The only real place to do this is on sites that people can easily access for free, will aspiring writers really want to post on a site which limits who can read their work?
With Blendle in particular, it may be a success because there will be a limited number of websites written in Dutch. There are only around 23 million people who speak dutch as a first language. To put that in perspective, it is less than the population of Texas throughout the entire world. Therefore, the numbers of sites who would cover subjects for free in that language will be significantly less. The people who want to have their writing read are also likely to use English language sites as they have a higher potential readership (there are around 1 billion English speaking people in the world).
Therefore, this model may work well within the confines of the limited content market of the Netherlands, but would it ever work in a wider content world?