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?


Instagram TV has a chance to change the Movie Industry

Instagram just launched a new feature (which could also be considered its own platform) named “IGTV” or “Instagram TV”. It’s their take on long-form content. Initially, it appears content is tailored for vertical video, but it is possible to watch in a standard landscape orientation — albeit with some tweaks required from the content creator (more on that later).

It’s no secret that I have been harsh on Instagram over the years. I bawked and bawked about being limited to square videos in regular posts (vs. the relatively recent addition of Stories). I whined and whined about Stories cropping landscape videos/photos uploaded from the camera roll, and their ephemerial nature. Both gripes have since been solved. Hooray! I suspect IGTV will inevitably allow the upload of landscape videos without cropping them to a portrait orientation.

Yes, sometimes I enjoy watching Instagram Stories in a vertical orientation. Usually when I’m quickly skimming through a handful of stories while waiting for a video to export or a bus to arrive. That said, unless I’m watching a show about ladders or giraffes, I’m not going to spend 20-40 minutes watching a vertical video. The first channel I saw on IGTV was natgeo. They have a show called “One Strange Rock: Home“. The first 3 minutes were compelling enough for me to want to watch more, but I’m frustrated by it not being in landscape. One Strange Rock. Rocks. Land. Landscape.

Thankfully, some creators I highly respect have placed snarky responses to IGTV’s vertical video limitations. First, I saw that Philip Bloom uploaded a video (https://instagram.com/tv/BkTKKUJnCkI) to IGTV in landscape orientation. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I realised he had edited the video to be rotated 90º and exported it in a 9:16 orientation. I do not appreciate the extra work these platforms make content creators do (i.e., pan and scan*) just to get our content to be displayed as it was recorded. It would take less than a week of development for the Instagram team to add a feature that allows videos to be rotated 90º/-90º. But, why bother when they could just display videos in the orientation they’re uploaded? Kraig Adams uploaded an iPhone screen recording of his YouTube channel and titled it “How to not use IGTV“. Hilarious! He did mention in the caption that he is excited to start making native content for IGTV though. Justine posted a tweet that simply reads “Vertical video 🤦🏼‍♀️” and has a vertical version of one of her recent YouTube videos. The replies to her were mostly against the idea of vertical video. These are her fans, but they also appear to be creators who know what they’re talking about.

While the public doesn’t yet know what the monetisation options will be for IGTV, I think this will be a great opportunity for Instagram to encourage other platforms to set standardised practices for international content distribution. In other words, being hindered from watching Australian content (usually the limitations are only on mainstream content — not YouTubers) within the United States’ geopolitical borders — and vice versa — is frustrating and outdated. If Instagram can lead others to distribute their content globally, then I think this will be a huge benefit for customers and the creators. Everyone is well aware of the lack of borders on the internet. Seeing “This content is not available in your country” is jarring. It leads people to go and steal the content through nefarious methods. Even with that awareness, production and distribution companies aren’t always able to agree on pricing to have content delivered globally. IGTV can and should pave a way forward for standardised pricing. Here’s are two examples of how that could work:

Chris Lilley (Australian director/producer) creates a new TV series.

      • The production company partners with an Australian distribution channel to get it on TV and online streaming channels.
      • Depending on global partnerships, the Australian distribution channel could charge 12% for every partner that wants to license the show in their country.
      • If their partner in that country doesn’t want the show, then it goes to an open market — not to the highest bidder. In theory, every channel/service in that country could distribute the show, but that would hinder competition between them.

Ricky Gervais (British director/producer) creates a new TV series.

        • The production company launches it on their YouTube, IGTV, Netflix, and Facebook channels with no global restrictions. (At minimum, they should have closed captions for countries which don’t have the native language of the show.)
        • The show (or movie) is ~$10 to watch the entire season, or included with the platform’s subscription membership (typically less than $10/mo).
        • To market the show (something the distribution channel usually does), they can target specific audiences on Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. This will likely gain them a larger (trackable) audience than traditional platforms like television.
    •  

Lastly, while most content is viewed on mobile phones and tablets, many people still enjoy longform (movies, TV shows, etc.) content on a larger screen. Personally, I prefer watching anything on YouTube on my laptop; if I see something interesting on my phone, I’ll move over to my laptop to view it. IGTV being limited to phones (Instagram still doesn’t have a good tablet experience) will hinder most of what I’ve described here. It won’t be able to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube Red if it’s not available on all platforms.

Further reading

Upgrade to Backupify Plus for Free

As many of you may know I have become quite obsessed with backing up my digital data. I won’t go into my complete strategy right know, but I will give you the opportunity to backup much of your data (to the cloud) for free.

I first learned about Backupify on net@night (episode 135). At the time, they were offering 2GB of backup for free. That’s not unusual for online backup — in fact, it’s quite the norm.

The giddy thing about Backupify is that it backs up your online digital data — GMail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, WordPress (your complete database), Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Basecamp, Hotmail, Delicious, Flickr, Photobucket, and way more.

If you think about it, most of these services are very valuable to you, and I bet you don’t have a backup of the majority of them. Even if you do, it’s best practice to have multiple backups of all important data.

Once you’ve linked each of your online accounts with Backupify, then it’s completely automated; Backupify does regular backups of all the services you link. Don’t worry, Backupify is completely secure (none of your backups are visible to anyone but you).

What happens if Google’s servers were destroyed by an act of nature (flood, etc)? I know that’s completely unlikely, but what if… You can never be sure of how long certain online services will be around, and if they only hold a single copy of your data, then you could be completely out of luck.

Are you following me here? Good. Because I have a bloody rad deal for FIVE people.

If you leave a comment on this post or @reply me on Twitter, then I’ll send you an invite to Backupify Plus.

This is completely free. There’s no money involved. Backupify is just giving away these free upgraded accounts so that people try out the service.

Your Plus (10GB) account will be active for 1 year. After that you will be downgraded to the free 2GB account. Unless, of course, you love how rad the service is and you pay to upgrade in a year.

Yes, I also get an upgrade on my Backupify account too, so everyone wins! 🙂

Mozying 3TB+

I’ve been using Mozy since I heard about the service a couple of years ago on a tech podcast (probably TWiT or the DSC).

It’s been awesome for backing up my important files on my iMac! When I got my MacBook Pro in May 2008 I just added another computer to the account and away I went; my important files on there are backed up too!

Let’s recap: 2 computers backing up to a remote location, daily. 2GBs of storage (shared between multiple computers) for free. Cool!

Justine was hired by Mozy in October 2008 to do some television and online commericals for them. This spread their reach in the social media community far and wide! I was aware that Mozy had a service you could pay for, but I wasn’t sure how much more storage space I’d get. I discovered that their MozyHome service states that it is “unlimited”.

Let me quickly tell you my experience of the term “unlimited”:
In Australia (my home), internet companies have plans called “Unlimited Extreme” or something similar. In the fine print this usually states that one’s bandwidth is capped at between 25GB ($90/mo) and 100GB (you’d be lucky to pay $200/mo). That’s just using ISPs as an example. The word unlimited is very tainted in Australia.

I asked @mozybackup (Mozy’s presense on Twitter) if I was able to backup over 2TBs (the amount of data I had at the time) of data to their service. They replied with: “@djsteen absolutely you can back up 2TB. unlimited means unlimited in Mozy land, my friend. one caveat – it’ll probably take a while.” I think I almost cried with joy when I read this!

Although, I didn’t sign up for the unlimited service right then. I tend to drag out paying for large purchases; making sure something new and cheaper doesn’t hit my radar.

This week (Feb 9th) I received an e-mail from Mozy stating I could receive 10% off Mozy annual and biannual services. (Find this discount on my coupons page.) That was my queue to sign up to MozyHome!

NB: I believe the discount is for new users only. I had to signup with a new account rather than upgrading my free one.

So far, I’ve uploaded about 11GBs of information. That’s all the important stuff. It is true: the data does mozy its way on up the first time you do it; changes and additions to data won’t take as long. I bet it’s going to take until I leave America (several months from now) to get the 3TB+ of data I currently have up to Mozy.

I feel safer now. I’ve lost two hard drives in my life and that won’t be happening again. 🙂

Thanks Mozy! (That @reply still sends tingles through my body!)

Reference:
GB = gigabye (1,028 megabytes)
TB = terabyte (1,028 gigabytes)

Social TV

In October last year I was watching an episode of Heroes while following the hashtag #heroes in TweetDeck, and I pondered: Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a column on the edge of the screen displaying tweets with #heroes.

I felt so giddy about this idea that I had to pause the show and make the following video about it.

To make things super-clear, there would be the options of having a chat and/or hashtag search on the right edge of the screen during the live broadcast AND the ability to watch that pre-recorded chat (or turn it off) if you recorded the episode.
Else, you could have a live chat appear when you’re watching the recorded episode because, chances are, a lot of people recorded in on DVRs and are watching it a day or so after it aired.

The idea of having television/web shows with Viddler-style timed-comments on the timeline isn’t as far fetched as you may think. Wine Library TV is on Hulu and many other video hosting websites, yet the Viddler player is embeded on winelibrary.tv because it’s customisable to look like the WLTV blog as well as having tags/links to the wines mentioned in the show.

I began thinking about this again today because of C.C. Chapman’s video about the Facebook Connect feature on CNN’s coverage of the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.

GoDaddy makes WordPress upgrades simple!

GoDaddy: Upgrading to WordPress 2.7

I’ve been using self-hosted WordPress for over a year now. I believe I’ve finally figured it all out.

Heck, it took me six months to customise my theme they way I wanted it due to my O.C.D. Thanks to Adam Strawson for coding a lot of it for me.

I use GoDaddy for hosting and domains. I have some GoDaddy discounts for you at the bottom of the page. I’ve always been happy with their cheap products superb customer service. Seriously, 24/7 phone support with a customer service agent located within the United States has been very handy for the couple times I needed it. Usually I’m done with the call in under 10 minutes.

When I heard that WordPress was going to release version 2.7 (.zip) I decided I would figure out what I need to backup so that I would be prepared for the upgrade.
I discovered the most important part is the database. Somehow, I ended up deep in phpAdmin. I downloaded my database and stored it locally in case of any problems with the 2.7 installation.

When WordPress 2.7 was released I chose to upgrade via GoDaddy’s Hosting Connection rather than doing a manual download & uploading it via FTP.

Just before you click the install button, the page displays what GoDaddy will do to install the upgrade:

1) Backup the databse,
2) Install the patch, and
3) Confirm the installation is successful

If the installation, for some reason, does not go smoothly, you’ll have the option to restore the application files and database to their current state.

If that isn’t the coolest thing ever, then you’re not enough of a geek!

The install went without a hitch, and I’ve been using WordPress 2.7 since December 11th.

If you’re planning on buying/transferring a domain, hosting, or many of the other dandy products GoDaddy provides, then make sure you use one of the following discount codes.

nothing1 – 10% Off Your Order
nothing2 – $5 off any order of $30 or more
nothing3 – $7.49 Domain names

Polyvore

Yesterday, Jackie showed me this service called polyvore; a web-based application for creating collages using images pulled from the web.

Polyvore’s about page states: Polyvore is a unique, easy-to-use web-based application for mixing and matching products from any online store. Items are pulled together into a visual set of products that can be shared with anyone. Each product within the set is then linked back to the online store where it is available for purchase.

It is a lot more than that though. Jackie has been creating unique artworks all day.

Polyvore has an interface very similar to Flickr, so creative Flickr users will feel very much at home.

My polyvore profile.