Fighting subscription fatigue


It used to be, maybe 10-20 years ago, subscription fatigue was largely tied to magazine subscriptions.  So many magazines, asking for just a small amount per year, constant deliveries of publications that many didn’t end up reading.  It’s become much more insidious, however, as cort-cutting has led to a lot of “low cost” items that, in aggregate, can end up costing more than what it replaced.

Take the “triple play” package that many people are abandoning, that yield cable, Internet and phone service was always a high-priced item for many households, and with the advent of streaming services have caused many to begin replacing items. The challenge is finding the right mix.

For instance, both Hulu Plus and Netflix charge $7.99 per month for streaming a subset of the content that existed on cable.  Amazon Prime includes streaming of some shoes for $79.99 per year (a price that may go up soon). Meanwhile, all three are signing exclusive deals, meaning to access a broader array of content, you need them all. iTunes also has deals and some exclusives, so beyond the cost of the above there’s the potential of spending money to buy other content digitally or on DVD.

Phone service could be replaced by VOIP; Magic Jack and Skype are each cheaper than what they replaced, with their own sets of features (Skype, a software-based solution, is definitely more flexible, but also more expensive).  That leaves Internet, and without the bundling its price goes up.  Indeed, my price with Optimum has gone up 25 percent in just a couple of years.  It’s great service, but it definitely doesn’t help the effort for saving.

Online other types of subscriptions exist.  For those with children (or just those who like games), there’s online gaming, each with its own set of monthly subscriptions, from massively multiplayer online role-playing games down to unlimited access to casual games on sites like iWon for $10 a month.  Sites like The New York Times charge access to their content for a few dollars a week (charged monthly, of course). At the other end, New York Capital has been making news for a $6,000 a year subscription price it’s planning on rolling out.

The end result is a mish-mash of pricing that seems cheap until the monthly credit card statement comes. I’ve begun slowly whittling down my somewhat lengthy list of subscriptions as I realize how little I use many of them. I’ve had had Netflix for years and use it only a handful of times a year.  I’m not sure that justifies a $96/year price. Hulu Plus I use more often, so that will likely stay. On the other hand, I just initiated Amazon Prime in December, and the two-day shipping, plus the streaming, should be a good pairing.

That magazine analogy at the top is festering in another way – newsletter subscriptions to various sites and alerts that lead to hundreds and hundreds of emails to filter through seemingly every time you go into your inbox.  I long ago created a separate box for “spam,” but then Facebook went and opened up their login mechanism, and that was tied to my personal inbox.  Now both inboxes get a bunch of nonsense.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking up, which aims to help identify what emails you’re getting and allows you to unsubscribe from a bunch of them at the same time.  It’s a clever tool designed to take some of the time out of cleaning up your inbox.  I’ve been looking more carefully to make sure I don’t get auto-subscribed to things when I use a website, but unfortunately it’s not always easy to catch it and most sites, for marketing reasons I’m sure, aim to opt you in by default.

The digital world has simplified a lot of things in our lives, and empowered us in many ways, but when it comes to the various sorts of subscriptions, it seems to have made life at least somewhat more complicated.

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