Bundles: A Solution to Subscription Fatigue

Originally drafted on March 2nd, 2013. Content has been updated to reflect services available in 2019.

Even for the least tech-savvy people, subscription fatigue is an increasing concern. Bills (i.e., monthly payments to a service provider) have been a fact of modern life for several decades now. Subscription boxes (Lootcrate, Blue Apron) have become a popular way to receive products on a regular basis without having to even think about it. The convenience is superb, but the cost of these adding into our mountain of service provider bills is often unattainable for those struggling to make a living wage.

Cable companies have been bundling their services (TV, Internet, Phone) for many years in order to lock you into their ecosystem (bettering their revenue). Each service in a bundle costs less than purchasing them individually. Keeping with the cable company example, an increasing number of people are ditching cable TV for Netflix and other content providers. And landline phones: haha!

Having so many choices for content and service providers is amazing! Needing to pay $XX/mo for each isn’t so amazing. If we choose just a few, it can quickly add up to $100+/mo. I prefer to look at costs on a yearly basis. Those few services add up to $1,200/yr. (That’s a return flight to almost anywhere in the world.) A tech-savvy person subscribed to 20+ services can easily be paying $5000/year for services. Of course, the cost is likely worth the value. Each service has employees who should be paid well. Some businesses/startups operate with very low profits and we want them to stay in business to provide us with their valuable service.

Managing the payments to all these services can be cumbersome in the best of scenarios. If our payment source (likely a debit or credit card) gets a new expiration date or billing address, then we are required to manually update the details for each and every service. There must be a better way.

I propose Bundles. A third party service (perhaps something like PayPal or Stripe — or something completely new) would handle all our subscriptions in one place. It would authenticate with each service, manage the payments, subscription type, and other details. The total cost (which could be made up of services that offer monthly and yearly payment schemes) would be added up and you have the option to pay weekly/monthly/yearly. As with most services, the yearly option would offer a big discount to the overall cost. The bundle service would receive revenue from a percentage of each sale. That percentage would be paid by the services (e.g., Amazon, Grazebox, Netflix) on their platform. As more people get subscription fatigue, it’s going to be more advantageous for each service to be offered in a bundle package.

Example 1: If Amazon Prime is $99/year standalone, then perhaps it becomes $79/year with the bundle service.
Example 2: If a web domain is $15/year standalone, then perhaps it becomes $1/mo with the bundle service.

The bundles could be $200, $500, $1000, $5000/year for access to multiple services (Flickr, Smugmug, Viddler, Vimeo, Adobe Creative Cloud, 1Password, Dollar Shave Club, Audible, Stamps.com, Spotify, Rdio, Napster, iTunes Match Apple Music, Netflix, Hulu Plus, additional Google One storage, Amazon AWS (up to xGB bandwidth/storage), Amazon Prime, mobile phone bill, internet access, Wi-Fi hotspot access, etc.).

For us nerds, perhaps even one plan could offer access to hosting and 5 domains on a given web host.

The level of plan would determine the level of service you receive from each particular service. For instance, the $500 plan would only provide you with a Pro-level Viddler account (not Business-level), Individual-level Rdio (not Family-level) account Plus-level Vimeo account (not Pro-level), 500GB Google One Storage (not 2TB), etc. You could likely tailor specific features of each service into your bundle. Although, the most popular features will likely be in featured bundles and be the best value.

Multiple examples of current news organisation paywalls.

I haven’t even touched on paying for journalism. Some of the largest news sources (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Sydney Morning Herald) have paywalls that allow you to read 3-10 articles per month, then you must pay for a subscription to read additional articles. If the journalists are being paid a good wage, then that’s fantastic! I don’t read any one source for news or opinions, and subscribing to them all is not feasible. A news bundle all on its own would be useful for countless people. A news bundle inside of the overall bundles mentioned above would be the icing on the cake. Access to everything without spending all of our money is an ideal situation.

What do you think about bundles? How will they simplify or better your life?

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