Skip to main content

I tried Blendle, the ‘Netflix of journalism,’ for a week and went broke — but you might not

Les Shu/Digital Trends

In less than a decade, the way we consume news has drastically changed. We’re not waiting for a nightly news broadcast or a daily paper — you get up-to-the-minute breaking news alerts wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, thanks to smartphones.

But while we can easily access a variety of news at our fingertips, many publishers have adapted to the digital landscape by adding paywalls, restricting content to non-subscribers to remain profitable. Maintaining subscriptions to various publications can be tricky, which is why Blendle wants to help. It’s an à la carte service that offers access to popular news stories for a small fee, and it has been dubbed the “Netflix of journalism.”

It’s an à la carte service that offers access to popular news stories for a small fee.

Blendle has been around since 2014, but it was originally only available in the Netherlands and Germany. The company began partnering with major U.S. publishers in 2016, and while it’s technically still in a closed beta, we set up an account through the iOS app.

The comparison to Netflix is a bit of a misnomer: Blendle works more like iTunes, allowing you to select individual stories and pay a small fee, as opposed to paying a monthly subscription fee to access all of its content. The business model is good for casual news readers, but not so much if you’re a news junkie.

Nearly perfect design

Blendle carries a diverse selection of U.S. publications. You’ll find most major newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. There’s a good list of magazines as well, including Mother Jones, The New Yorker, as well as industry-specific publications like Ad AgeThere are a few glaring omissions, however, such as The Atlantic.

Les Shu/Digital Trends

You’ll have to look else where if you want access to regional and local magazines, or niche publications. Blendle mostly carries national publications with a large print run. It makes sense not to carry regional or niche publications, as they are more likely to attract readers who are willing to subscribe.

While magazines were up to date, newspapers were consistently a day behind.

Blendle’s website and the mobile app are absolutely gorgeous. It’s easy to search for content via publication, and there’s a curated content tab on the homepage. As you scroll through, you see a headline, image, and a small excerpt for each article. Additionally, you can set up reading lists and alerts to quickly find stories that interest you.

While we liked the service’s design, we did run into the problem of accidentally purchasing stories. All you need to do is tap on a story, and you’ll be charged for it. The good thing is Blendle works as an honor system, providing refunds at the end of each story if you clicked it accidentally, or if you didn’t like the story or reporting itself.

There’s another issue that’s a bit more problematic: While magazines were up to date, newspapers were consistently a day behind. We’re not sure if this is because the service is still in beta, but we’ve reached out to Blendle to learn more.

Small charges add up quickly

Blendle initially seemed too good to be true. Instead of paying for an entire issue of The New Yorker, I could just pay a few quarters for the stories I’ll actually read each week. Pricing depends on the publisher and length of story but, for the most part, almost all content is available for less than $.50. While it sounds like a win-win scenario, we crunched some numbers to see whether the service is really worth it.

Les Shu/Digital Trends

I noted down the number of stories I read for an entire week, to see exactly how much I would spend on Blendle. The total ended up being 66 stories, which costed $33 on Blendle. Apparently, a few cents here and there add up pretty quickly. If I kept up the same pace every week, my Blendle habit would come out to a little over $1,700 each year.

If I kept up the same pace every week, my Blendle habit would come out to a little over $1,700 each year.

Sure, $1,700 sounds expensive, but how does it compare to directly subscribing to the publications? If I subscribed to the seven publications I used on Blendle, I would have saved a little over $1,200 during the course of the year.

This doesn’t mean Blendle is a poor product. It’s just not meant for me. If you’re a casual reader, it’s the perfect platform. Choose when you want to read an article, and it won’t be blocked behind a paywall. If you find yourself consistently reading from these publications every week or so, it may make more sense to just subscribe to them.

Blendle has the potential to be a win-win scenario for many. You can read a story for a few cents, and publishers actually make money from people who aren’t likely to pull the trigger on an annual subscription.

Steven Winkelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven writes about technology, social practice, and books. At Digital Trends, he focuses primarily on mobile and wearables…
Is this cheap foldable finally a good Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 alternative?
A person opening the Honor Magic Vs.

I’ve had a turbulent time with the Honor Magic Vs. It started out well when I first tried the phone in late 2022, but the early appeal waned when I got to grips with the software — and things soured even more when I tried the camera for our full review. Now, Honor has revealed the final price for the Magic Vs, and it’s substantially less than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, its closest rival.

It means that I need to tackle the Honor Magic Vs again to see if software updates have improved it, and if not, whether the lower price means its shortcomings are more easily forgiven.
Bringing the Magic back

Read more
I finally found an Android phone that makes me want to ditch my iPhone
Someone holding the Motorola Edge Plus 2023.

The iPhone 14 Pro is an incredible smartphone. It's been my phone of choice for the last few months — and there's very little I dislike about it. The size is perfect, it's ridiculously fast, the display looks great ... I could go on and on. Simply put, it's a phone that's done everything I've asked of it, and it's given me very little reason to look for a new go-to smartphone.

But that's starting to change. I recently wrapped up my review of the Motorola Edge Plus (2023), and the more I sit back and reflect on my time with the Android phone, I've started to realize something. I barely touched my iPhone while reviewing the Edge Plus, and even now that the review is published, I still find myself grabbing for the Motorola handset over the iPhone.
The Edge Plus feels like it was made just for me

Read more
The latest iPad Mini is $100 off, and it’s worth considering
Person holding the iPad Mini 6 in hand.

Apple’s iPad lineup remains one of the most popular tablet options on the market, and if you’re looking for savings in both space and money, the Apple iPad Mini is worth considering right now. Amazon currently has the latest generation iPad Mini marked down to just $400, which is a savings of $100 from its regular price of $500. This is an impressive discount on a product that doesn’t often see one, so hop over to Amazon to grab it while you can.

Why you should buy the Apple iPad Mini
At its core, the Apple iPad Mini is a scaled-down version of the popular Apple iPad Air. It lacks the M1 chip you’ll find in the iPad Air, but still provides all of the performance most people could possibly hope for in a tablet you can easily hold with one hand. It features an A15 Bionic chip with Neural Engine, who while the smaller form factor and 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display keep your backpack a little lighter, you’re still able to carry around all of the capability you need for editing photos, creating digital art, taking notes, and even video editing. The iPad Mini’s cameras are also quite impressive, and can be put to good use by content creators or anyone looking to capture the world around them.

Read more