The Times


The Subscription Dilemma

  • Written by NewsCo

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the majority of services emerging online are now heading towards a subscription-based approach, whether this come through the biggest online music streaming platforms or the growing demand for the box office shift away from cinema and theatre straight to streaming as has also been seen over this past year. Whilst some online options such as certain gaming genres which already rely on a steady deposit anyway such as gambling and betting as here are some of the favourites will remain free from the subscription approach, it does seem to be the set-in stone approach moving forward – but what are the upsides and downsides to this approach, and is the subscription approach really beneficial?

Mounting costs have become a big concern – It had been identified almost immediately once the change initially started to occur, but with so many services and the costs all stacking up with each other it was almost inevitable that it wouldn’t be sustainable for a lot of users. Ticking one box for each of your favourites by being subbed to one music service, one movie service, and a few extra certainly adds up all on its own, but if you target exclusive releases for example the requirements to be subscribed to multiple quickly increase. It is already leading to a culture of cancelling subscriptions regularly and will be a problem moving forward too.

A niche subscription for everything – This one comes as a bit of an upside and downside at the same time – niche markets have been able to find a great platform with this approach, things like receiving different packets of unique coffee or beer each month is certainly interesting to many, and well worth the cost too, but it does also mean this could be the only path for some with some of these products being less accessible just because of the subscription cost. Ultimately, it’s down to the consumer and the target market for these more niche subscriptions, but as the costs can be much higher, it does raise the question of whether or not you’re overpaying when you’re a few months deep and have only received a handful of artisan products.

Pay to use, not pay to own – Perhaps the biggest problem identified with this subscription culture has been the move away from a buy-to-own or pay-to-own approach, and now having everything on lease – it works well for many as the lower cost to have access to huge libraries is certainly beneficial, but given you never actually own anything the complaint has been over a longer period of time you have spent a lot and received nothing tangible in return. It has been the same with online licensing as user complaints have long remained, but as no change is in sight the pay to use aspect of things like software in particular is seemingly here to stay.

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