We are drowning in subscriptions

We are living in a world of razors and razor blades. Give away the razor for free and let people buy razor blades for the rest of their lives. Only now the razors are smartphones, smart TVs, PCs and even our homes and the blades they want us to buy for the rest of our lives are the incremental subscription services offered for these devices.

Every time you turn around there is another subscription service on offer. Microsoft doesn’t want to sell you software anymore, they want you to subscribe to their software on a monthly basis.

Amazon wants you to subscribe to their Prime service to get free shipping, free books and free movies.

The cable company wants us to subscribe to premium sports packages, movie packages, phone and Internet services, streaming content and even home security packages.

My new Samsung smart TV offers subscription streaming services for movies, games, exercise shows, kids programming and more. (What an odd turn of events that a TV manufacturer is trying to get after-sale revenues from a device that used to be a single-sale item.)

Lots of companies are offering streaming music and movie subscription services. Other companies want you to subscribe to personal cloud storage services. Then there are teleconferencing, video chat and long distance phone services.

Most companies entering the IoT space are looking to profit based on some sort of subscription-based service. Obviously home security companies (who may be the best suited to dominate the smart-home markets) all depend on a subscription-based model.

Hell, even my local car wash offers yearly subscriptions.

From a manufacturer’s point of view subscription services sound like a great way to make money long after the initial sale of a device or a way to make even more profits than if they sold their software, products or services outright.

From a consumer’s point of view, however, I think we may be reaching a saturation point. How many subscriptions can the average person handle? We all know how expensive our cable, satellite and phone services can become as we add more ‘premium’ services. And many of us have subscriptions to streaming movies, cloud storage, online software licenses and perhaps home security services. And that’s not counting things like health care premiums, gas and electricity, car and home insurance and on and on.

Many of these subscription services automatically deduct their monthly fees automatically and for the service providers that’s probably a good psychological approach since people would most likely begin to balk if they got bills in the mail from each of the dozens of services they subscribe to.

If we each received twenty or thirty bills each month ranging from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars per month we might consider dropping many of these subscriptions, but as long as the fees are hidden we don’t seem to mind as much.

I do, however, believe that we are rapidly approaching a time when consumers will start to push back against the tide of subscriptions that are threatening to drown us all.

Guy Wright

Guy Wright has been covering the technology space since the days when computers had cranks and networks were steam powered. He has been a writer and editor for more years then he cares to admit.


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