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The world of startups that are saving journalism is a small one. And it just got a little bit smaller. Online magazine PAPER is acquired by Blendle. PAPER is an initiative by Persgroep, one of the larger publishing companier in The Netherlands, but has been struggling to gain traction. The amount of money involved in the acquisition has not been disclosed.
PAPER is a curated magazine that selects the best articles from the publications that are part of the Persgroep company. Among them are daily national newspapers like Algemeen Dagblad, Trouw and Parool, as well as regional dailies such as Brabants Dagblad and Tubantia. For €5.99 a month, readers get access to an online magazine featuring the best they have to offer.
Competition from the inside
The service was launched in May 2015 by former editor in chief of Parool, Barbara Beukering. It was presented as a new and inventive way to sell content within the Persgroep. Yet at the start of this year Persgroep also launched another digital kiosk called Topics. Just like PAPER, this features articles from all the Persgroep newspapers, this time automatically sorted on subject. A subscription to one of Persgroeps papers also includes access to Topics. The publisher compared the service to Spotify, but for journalism.
The strong overlap in both digital services probably did not help PAPER a lot. The service failed to hit its targets of 30.000 subscribers after one year. Instead, it attracted only ‘a couple of thousand’. “We’ve decided to focus on our other major digital projects like Topics and InDeBuurt.nl”, says Persgroep director Frits Campagne. “The future of PAPER is now safe with the acquisition by Blendle. They will give PAPER the attention it deserves.”
Blendle taking care of the back-end
To some extent, this was already happening. Blendle was involved in PAPER, as it developed the back-end technology that processed logins and payments. Now the Blendle editorial team will also select the articles and fill the digital magazine of PAPER. Nothing will change for the current subscribers, the service will continue uninterrupted.
It does beg the question what Blendle sees in their new acquisition. According to Blendle co-founder Alexander Klöpping, acquiring PAPER is a logical next step. “The two digital brands are a good match, both in target audience as well as content.” The Blendle editors are already sending out several newsletters daily with a handpicked selection of articles. Main difference is the payment model: where Blendle users pay for every single article they read, PAPER users pay a fixed fee and can read everything that’s offered to them.
The amount of money Blendle paid for the online magazine has not been disclosed. But the surprising acquisition is another shake-up in the already small world of publishing startups. Last month, all-you-can-read service eLinea went bankrupt, while earlier this year the similar service MyJour closed its doors.