Innovation in digital content distribution: The Italian case and two European benchmarks

April 16, 2015

Buy a single article instead of buying a newspaper. And if you don’t like it – get your money back. This is not a joke. This is an innovative business model that has already proved itself successful. Participants of the Perugia International Journalism Festival had a chance to learn more about this and other similar business models at the panel discussion on innovations in digital content distribution.

For almost a year, a Dutch startup Blendle offers its subscribers an opportunity to search through the biggest print media outlets and choose the articles that caught their attention. At the moment Blendle has about 250 000 registered users.

“We had an idea about this group of people who only want to read certain articles instead of a whole newspaper, – says the founder Alexander Klöpping. – The algorithm of Blendle helps them choose the content that they are really interested in. So far it has been working very well. We give 2.5 euro to every new user. And at the end one in five of them keeps topping up the account”.

Blendle also has a refund option: for the first time in the history of print media, readers can ask to return their money if they don’t like the article. However, the percentage of refunded articles is very small, says the founder of the platform: “Only 2-5 percent of articles get refunded. Usually people complain that the article is too short, or it doesn’t meet their expectations”.

Blendle is not the only business model which proves that users can be persuaded to pay for online content. French web platform LeKiosk has proved it seven years ago, as the co-founder Nathaniel Philippe pointed out at the discussion: “LeKiosk has been launched before tablets and the global digitalization of print media, but we somehow thought it would happen. The platform allows users to read newspapers and magazines they choose. For 5, 10 or 20 euro per month users can access 5,10, or 20 outlets respectively”.
At the moment LeKiosk has 30 000 subscribers, 700 000 registered users have downloaded it’s app.

Italian platform Digital Magics has been launched in January 2015. It works as a search engine that helps readers to navigate among all the content offered by the biggest national publishers, and choose the articles that fit their interests, explains the co-founder Alberto Fioravanti: “Since we work in the cooperation with the publishers, start of our platform has turned into the biggest advertisement event of the Italian digital market. More and more publishers are willing to work with us”.

The experts pointed out that even though these models seem to be successful, it is not easy to export them to other countries even within Europe. Though it would be nice to make them outgrow the national borders, says Alexander Klöpping: “No matter what kind of obscure small newspaper in a far away country our users are interested in, they should be able to find it”.

The founder of Blendle also points out that journalists can learn a lot from innovators: “We have a lot of data on how people choose articles. For example, readers don’t want to pay for news, they prefer background information, analytics and, of course, unique content. Many journalists don’t even want to know how their articles work out at the end. Instead of complaining about dying print market, publishers should try to implement new things”.

Adilya Zaripova