Death by a thousand cuts

I've been on the internet for a long, long time.

Via local Bulletin Board Systems, I started reading USENET newsgroups — mostly Star Trek and comic book and computer game stuff — during college in the late 1980s. I got sucked into the world of MUDs. Soon after graduating, I heard about this new thing called the World Wide Web, so I installed Mosaic on my Macintosh SE.

Mosaic on a Mac

Before long, I taught myself HTML and built my first website. Eventually, in 1997, I started my first blog — back before blog was even a word!

I was drawn to the web (and the internet) in part because it seemed so egalitarian. Anyone could start a website about anything, and as long as they produced great stuff and shared it, people would read. I also liked the fact that almost everything was free. It didn't cost anything (besides your $19.95 monthly dial-up service) to access any of this information. The early web was a de facto sharing economy.

Best of all? The web was a wide open space, a blank slate, a platform free from dominance by mainstream media. Little people like me could have a voice.

None of this lasted long.

The Monetization of the Web

Soon, banner ads came along. I hated banner ads when they first appeared. “My site will never have banner ads,” I told my friends. (This was my first real lesson that you should never say never. My friends have been giving me grief about this for more than fifteen years!)

In 1998, Google arrived and changed everything. Until that point, web search was a miserable experience. It wasn't very good and it was overly monetized. Google was the opposite. It was amazing and had no monetization at all.

Hahahahahahahaha. How things have changed. Today, Google is all about ads. And using it is more and more a miserable experience. Look at this mess:

Look at all the ads on Google!

How long until Google has transformed itself into AltaVista?

In time, the mainstream media realized that the web wasn't going anywhere. By the early 2000s, they were treating it as an important part of their operations. By the early 2010s, the web had become the most important part of most media companies' platforms. And if it hadn't, those companies would soon be dead.

Meanwhile, two parallel (but related) trends developed.

  • First, there was the rise of “software as a service” (Saas). In the olden days — 1995, say — when you wanted a computer program, you went down to Circuit City and bought it. You paid for it once and you owned it forever. As “web apps” became a thing, companies shifted from one-time payments to a subscription model. Today, even big companies like Microsoft and Adobe have adopted the practice of continually charging for their products. (And if they don't use a subscription model, they often “sunset” their software, which is essentially the same damn thing.)
  • Second, forward-thinking sites and companies learned there was money to be made by disrupting existing business models. Netflix is a great example. Founded in 1997, this company has single-handedly destroyed multiple industries, most notably retail video. And, eventually, Netflix began to disrupt the monolithic television industry itself! Initially, this was beneficial to consumers. Now, in 2019, it's become apparent that oops, nope it's not. (See also.)

Twenty-five years ago, when the web was young, it was all about free. Anyone who could afford a computer and a $19.95/month dial-up connection was free to create and publish whatever they wanted — and free to consume what other people had created. It was like some sort of digital utopia.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Today, the web is most decidedly not free. And it's getting less free with every passing month. Let's be honest: More and more, life online is expensive. It's like death by a thousand cuts.

This morning as I was pulling together the latest edition of the GRS Insider — this site's weekly email — I experienced the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. And that prompted this article. (And delayed the newsletter haha.)

Crashing into paywalls is a daily occurence now. No — it's an hourly occurrence. I follow a promising link and bam I'm brought up short because I have to pay to access the article. This happens at newspapers, magazines, and even internet-only sites. It makes me grateful for the publications that produce terrific content and still provide it for free. (One example? I find that I'm frequently drawn to articles at The Atlantic. They provide top-notch quality without asking for payment. But for how long?)

Meanwhile, the subscription software model is starting to take its toll too. I completely understand that some apps and services require subscriptions in order to function properly. I pay a monthly fee to have Get Rich Slowly hosted on a webserver. That makes sense.

  • It does not make sense to me that some of the tools we use to build Get Rich Slowly require monthly (or yearly) subscriptions. There's no ongoing maintenance. There's no draw on the vendor's resources.
  • It does not make sense to me that my favorite weather app for the iPhone requires an annual subscription. In fact, it's insane. (Yet I still pay it.)
  • It does not make sense to my that Pzizz, a sleep tool that I've used for over a decade, moved from standalone pricing to subscription pricing. (And hey, Pzizz people, how many times do I have to pay for your product before you give me lifetime access? Because I've paid three or four times already.)

Generally speaking, SaaS and subscription plans aren't necessary — they're just profitable for the companies that use them. And as long as we keep paying, they'll stick to the model.

My current app subscriptions

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The “cut” that's really going to mess with people's minds? The upcoming high price of television.

When Netflix and Hulu and similar companies came along, they offered low-cost alternatives to cable. Cord cutting became an act of frugality. I ditched cable television in 2007 and have never looked back. Until now.

Now, big media companies have recognized that they too can get on the act. They too can inflict one of the thousand cuts.

  • CBS was quick on the draw. Want to watch the latest Star Trek shows? No Netflix for you! You have to pay $10 per month for CBS All Access — or $6 per month if you're willing to put up with commercials.
  • Disney is a heavy hitter and they want to get in on the act. Disney+ — coming November 12th — will cost $8 per month. Want to watch the latest Marvel and Star Wars shows? Want to watch Disney and Pixar movies? This is your only option.
  • By far, the most popular show on Netflix is NBC's The Office, which accounts for a mind-boggling 7% of all Netflix viewing in the U.S. NBC knows a golden goose when it sees one. When its current deal with Netflix expires, it's yanking The Office and using it as a tent pole to launch its own subscription service.

Meanwhile, Netflix and Hulu and Amazon all offer their own original programming. (At least the latter is free for folks who pay for Prime, which is nearly one-third of the United States. Holy shit!) Apple will soon get in on the game and they're using big names to draw viewers: Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and more.

Streaming used to be a cheaper alternative to cable television. As Consumer Reports notes, these days it's a toss-up. And soon, streaming is likely to be the more expensive option.

Note: The one huge advantage to this proliferation of options? Users can pick and choose which content they subscribe to. For years (or decades), folks had been asking for a la carte pricing for cable channels. Well, I guess now we have it.

No Free Lunch

To provide supporting evidence for this article, I started to make a list of all of the software subscriptions I have, my software that's being “sunsetted” and needs to be upgraded (Quickbooks 2016 just notified me yesterday that it's no longer supported), the most common paywalls I encounter, and the television-related payments I make. I gave up. It's a doable thing, but it'd take too much time right now. It's a project for another day.

I know I sound like a cranky old man (again!), but I've had enough. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore! Except that I probably am.

“Don't you expect to pay for services?” Kim asked me as I bitched to her this morning. “How does anybody run a business if it's free? In your mind, their business model should be to not charge the customer?”

Okay, fair point. I don't want to be taken for a choosing beggar.

As somebody who runs a website himself and knows how much it costs (in terms of time and money) just to maintain my tiny corner of the web, I absolutely do not begrudge anyone the desire to make money.

And, in fact, my biggest challenge since repurchasing Get Rich Slowly two years ago has been balancing my desire to provide excellent information without destroying the user experience with monetization. It's a delicate balance, one that I'm not sure I'm achieving. (But hey, I'm working on it!)

My frustration is that there are just so many companies extracting a pound of flesh from me. It's too much.

Yes, I realize most (of not all) of these expenses are voluntary. Yes, I realize this is capitalism in action. Yes, I realize there are often free (or cheaper) options. Yes, I realize we can't reset the internet to 1995. Believe me: I've been thinking about this issue for years now. I understand all of this stuff. But I don't like it.

In the end, my solution recently has been to KonMari my digital life. I've removed most of the apps from my iPhone and iPad, opting to cut those with subscription fees first. When possible, choose software with a one-time fee instead of an ongoing subscription. I try to steer clear of sites with paywalls. I killed Hulu. (But then Kim promptly joined.) Even though I love Star Trek and the Marvel Universe, I refuse to pay for CBS All Access and Disney+. I never will.

But then, I was never going to have banner ads on my website either, was I?

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Pete
Pete
1 year ago

This is where doing our best to not view optional things as required things is useful.

Pete
Pete
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Definitely. We are stuck with this new model in so many ways. I’m even questioning those bigger things for myself. For example, we subscribe to have Microsoft Office. Because we use Excel like crazy instead of Quicken or other money management tools. However, there are other options. Switch to using monetarily free tools and give up some of the capabilities we have now in Excel Switch to using pencil and graph paper I’m in no way suggesting that switching to pencil and graph paper is a logical way to go for just about anybody. However…sometimes seeing the alternatives is a… Read more »

Patricia
Patricia
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD…what software would you consider to be ‘non-optioal’?

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

I expect an overcorrection. The Office is a huge amount of the traffic on Netflix, but how many of those viewers are going to subscribe to NBC’s service just for that? I expect the fragmenting of the landscape will quickly show that it’s not quite what they expect. With regard to newpapers, I think they need to figure out a new model. Once upon a time there were news stands all over. That was because relatively few people subscribed to a specific newspaper. But they might see something interesting that made them pay for a single day. I might read… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Poor execution, but not a bad concept. For it to work they can’t hide their best stuff.

Sue
Sue
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

In Canada, where I live, I am able to access something called Press Reader through my library – for free – which gives me digital access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines. It’s not perfect, but it works well most of the time and is basically the virtual news stand model mentioned above. Might be worth checking out your local library to see if it offers the same resource.

Simon
Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  Sue

We have a similar thing in Australia. For our local library it’s delivered via ZINIO.

Phoebe
Phoebe
1 year ago
Reply to  Sue

I think the public library is being over-looked as a resource in another way. The WSJ and NYT are no doubt available there and you can access anything you want to read there.

Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

Newspapers charging a monthly subscription makes sense. I want reporters to be paid to do good work and be free of advertiser influence. They have to be paid consistency to do so. But Adobe and Microsoft going to a monthly fee is just gouging us and that’s nonsensical – they don’t provide any ongoing services, it’s a single product or a bloated package of the one product I need and ten others I don’t want. Ugh. I knew we were headed here with the streaming services though. There was no way those companies wouldn’t find a way to make money… Read more »

Rebecca
Rebecca
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

I for one am only working my way through The Office right now because I had been picking away at it and actually wanted to finish it. I am not a type of viewer who regularly re-watches shows. On Netflix alone, I can’t keep up with how quickly I add interesting looking shows to my list. And that doesn’t count the ones that we watch as a couple on my husband’s profile.

JoeHx
JoeHx
1 year ago

I used to play MUDs, too. Back in the day when computer games were text only…

dh
dh
1 year ago

Right now I subscribe to Hulu Live and the Starz channel. This essentially duplicates a standard cable package for a fraction of the price. I’m now paying $60 a month instead of $160. Even with these changes that are coming, I suspect it’ll take a while before streaming reaches the heights of what I was paying for cable. I have noticed some of my favorite bloggers and vloggers now charge for their best writing. They’ll publish great free material, then tell you if you really want the secret sauce you need to pay for a subscription or join Patreon or… Read more »

David
David
1 year ago

The big secret to affordable streaming is to not subscribe to all the services at the same time. Subscribe to Netflix for one month, watch all Netflix shows. Next month subscribe to Hulu, watch all Hulu shows. Repeat for CBS, Disney, HBO, etc. Rotate through all of them one month at a time. Everyone seems to overlook how easy it is to cancel and re-activate later.

Marty
Marty
1 year ago
Reply to  David

Good idea Dave. I will give that a try. thanks

Adam
Adam
1 year ago
Reply to  David

That’s what they’re banking on. Last year I bought a JBL speaker designed to work real well with Chromecast Audio (…back when that was supported) and it came with one- to six-month trials for various streaming services — Spotify, YouTube Music, etc. Good thing I placed calendar reminders to cancel at the end of the trial periods or I’d still be paying for them now. I shudder to think how many folks just let it keep going and forget to even use the service!

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  David

It’s easy for now. Sooner or later if enough people do it, they will make it less easy. Or at least the less scrupulous services will.

I signed up for a four week trial to a digital newspaper, and only when the four weeks was almost up did I realize I had to call in and wait on hold to cancel.

Herman Schwartz
Herman Schwartz
1 year ago

If you dig deep enough into the web, most everything eventually gets revealed. For free. Here’s your free WSJ link: https://www.morningstar.com/news/dow-jones/2019080111078/families-go-deep-in-debt-to-stay-in-the-middle-2 Realistically, the shows on Netflix have been sucking lately. Ditto for Hulu. I may take a chance and just get Disney. I like G quality films. Most of the stuff on the Apple News is free. You have to dig deeper. Most of those articles come from magazines you can read for free, online, from your local library. Your tax dollars pay for it. Including the NY Times and The Wall Street Journal. Duh. I guess when you have… Read more »

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
1 year ago

Cars? It’s about cars? Sigh. Why do people spend so much money on cars?

Sequentialkady
Sequentialkady
1 year ago
Reply to  CalLadyQED

It boils down to vanity.

Spencer for Hire
Spencer for Hire
1 year ago

I think your complaints are valid. When everything started switching to a subscription model it really frustrated me. Most software providers offer something that provides little value beyond the initial platform itself yet we are stuck paying recurring fees for minimal to no updates. They all do that as it creates predictable revenue. Its a lot easier to explain to wall street how many users you have and your churn then it is to have the lumpy sales cycle. The one gripe I have is the “this is capitalism” comment. You are correct this is capitalism in action, but your… Read more »

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
1 year ago

Excellent point about capitalism

Wesley
Wesley
1 year ago

Excellent point! And what about the opportunities this presents!? If you’re an unknown content creator, you can more easily compete when the big guys increase their prices all at once.

When Star Trek’s new material gets stupidly expensive (let alone just lazy writing in this latest incarnation as compared to TNG and the original’s awesomeness), DUST (on Youtube) gets a lot more appealing.

Financial articles get annoying/expensive to follow? In steps GRS to fill the void!

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
1 year ago

I disagree on the weather app. I don’t know how they do it in the us, but over here there are various weather data providers, distinguished by the quality of their forecasts, the depth of their data, and so on. A general forecast for a day and a largish region will be less expensive than a specific one for a smaller one.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Brülls

In the U.S. just go to weather.gov and type your zip code.

Kris
Kris
1 year ago

JD,

You can read the article “families go deep into debt to stay in middle class” here

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/families-go-deep-into-debt-to-stay-in-the-middle-class/ar-AAFbEHE

Bethany D
Bethany D
1 year ago

So painfully true. I refuse to upgrade my YNAB software because I hate the way they switched from buy-it-once to subscription. Especially after proudly proclaiming they would never be one of those companies. Grrr.

JC Webber III
JC Webber III
1 year ago
Reply to  Bethany D

Yea, dito on the YNAB change in business model. I’m so disappointed in them.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  Bethany D

I joined them in the subscription era but fortunately locked in before they increased prices. I still get a good value from them so I’m keeping them for now, but nothing prevents you from doing a DIY version on a spreadsheet. All it is, it’s the envelope system, in virtual envelopes. It’s not rocket science. You could even do it on a piece of paper. What you pay for with the subscription is for it to sync with your banks, and across devices, etc., and the security protocols this entails, which are an ongoing cost to any enterprise. Also, the… Read more »

Anne
Anne
1 year ago
Reply to  Bethany D

Me too. I have not yet succumbed to the YNAB subscription. My upgrade to Mohave will eventually mean I lose that battle. I adore the company and software but have no interest in auto-downloads of my data so get no value from the software change and just have to pay on and on and on. A one-time cost every few years, fine.

I am also staring a new consulting business. So as I try to find software and services that will aid me I of course find everyone wants their monthly cut. It is holding back progress.

CalLadyQED
CalLadyQED
1 year ago

If sites consistently have good material, you help your readers by letting us know. That should be worth the subscription. A pound of flesh? I think you’re being too dramatic.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  CalLadyQED

Depends. I hate it when bloggers post links to paid sites.

Treo
Treo
1 year ago

I think we’ll eventually start seeing a rise in piracy across the mainstream again, and while I don’t advocate breaking the law, the threshold for where that will be more advantageous for more people is starting to be reached. Before you dismiss my argument, hear me out: Music piracy started primarily because nobody wanted to pay $20-$30 for an album when all they wanted was one or two songs. That led to services like Napster all the other offshoots. You can buy and “own” music at $1/song now, which is the right value to price ratio for most people. Video… Read more »

SaharaRose
SaharaRose
1 year ago
Reply to  Treo

Maybe for all those articles we want to read it would be nice if they charged a “per article” fee. I’d gladly pay $.05 or $.10 to read something if I only read 2-3 articles a month at a given site.

I do pay for a subscription to the NYT though.

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

That’s what I was describing above. Not a subscription, but a service that would offer this across platforms, so I can buy what’s of interest but leave the rest.

VinTek
VinTek
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Just about everything produced by Studio Ghibli is available on DVD and Blu-Ray. How do you define “no legal ways for me to buy things legally”? BTW, that’s a rather redundant statement with regards to the legality.

Me, I got everything from Studio Ghibli from my library and converted them to MP4 format so that my wife would watch them on her iPad.

Kivi Shapiro
Kivi Shapiro
1 year ago
Reply to  Treo
Coopersmith
Coopersmith
1 year ago

Sorry that I did no join the bus with cutting the chord sooner but happy now that my bill went from$144 to $60 I am sure glad I did. I was tired of paying for a mere 78 channels of nothing and only watching 5 channels. I found those 5 channels on a package at $16 a month. So a total bill of $76

Perspective is key. I would rather have what I watch for $68 less than $144.

Dave @ Accidental FIRE
Dave @ Accidental FIRE
1 year ago

Ha, great stuff, I like the “get off my lawn!” tone 🙂 I KonMari’ed a few years ago, for the most part. Especially regarding social media on the phone. My rule is that I don’t take social media with me – none are on my phone. If I use them it’s on my full PC which limits my time nicely. The paywall-article thing bugs me too, as well as sites that want you to turn off your ad blocker. But hey, we can vote with our mouse clicks. If the NYT doesn’t want to let me read their stuff free,… Read more »

Dan
Dan
1 year ago

JD, I am a free markets/capitalist kind-of-guy at heart. Here’s the way life works: 1. You pay for things when the value you receive from something meets or exceeds its monetary cost. (Or government regulation makes you, but I digress on that point.) 2. A product is priced at what “the market will bear.” As a business, if that price exceeds your costs, you make money and presumably stay in business. If the market price does not cover your costs, you don’t stay in business very long. The whole subscription thing is businesses figuring out what the market price for… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

You can negotiate with the NYT. I pay them a small fraction of the sticker price. Beats getting dead tree slabs dropped at my door once a day.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I wrote a long reply but my connection crashed.

TL;DR: It’s customary for papers to charge just half of the stated price, e.g. WSJ is really $16, not the $32 they threaten with publicly.

So yeah, ask to cancel, they make you an offer, etc.

AA
AA
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

A lot of these news sites have wildly different subscription prices based on whether you’re a new or existing customer, and whether you’re re-upping after a canceled subscription. I initially subscribed to NYT online for the introductory offer of $8/month, and after a year it automatically went up to the “real” price of $16/month. That was a bit too steep for me so I canceled and was going to try and subscribe using my husband’s educator discount. But then I went back to the site and found that I could re-subscribe for just $4/month for some period time of (6… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yep, I pay 4 bucks too. That’s what I pay for the Washington Post, which I actually read a lot more, and they matched it.

NYT is nice as a reference, and for archival purposes, but the articles are way too damn long for me to read as news. I treat it as a magazine. Also, Paul Krugman FTW.

For bullet-point news, the Reuters app is free and in my experience alerts you faster than all others.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Oh! Facebook sucks, but check out stars on Kinja.

Could you implement here? I think it would be a strong feedback mechanism…

Peter Brülls
Peter Brülls
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

At this point I’ll not that the vast majority of Americans aren’t capitalist. Since they have no capital.

Mr R2A
Mr R2A
1 year ago

The interesting thing will be seeing what happens to all these streaming services in 10-20 years when pop culture has moved on. For instance, right now every studio and network can create their own streaming service that will attract subscribers based on their “tent pole” titles. But the reason these tent pole titles work that way is because they were originally available to a much wider audience on network TV or cable. NBC having The Office might carry them through the next 5-10 years. Then what? The next generation will say “What’s The Office?”. The next generation won’t watch network… Read more »

Michael Clark
Michael Clark
1 year ago

Ah, the early days. I loved seeing a Toyota ad on TV. Their web site was listed as thhp://www.toyota.com

I get a lot of stuff at the local library. Free. Star Trek Discovery is on DVD. The Office is on DVD. Friends is on DVD. Most (all?) Disney movies. They also have books, and some online access to magazines and a few newspapers. Many libraries will let you set up an account even if you aren’t local. So do some searching and see your options.

Daniel Barry
Daniel Barry
1 year ago

I can usually get around the New York Times paywall by using a VPN to change my IP address. I have also found Privacy.com helpful for subscriptions for Netflix, HBO, etc. because you can generate one-time use debit cards in order to pay for it month-to-month rather than having the charges automatically recur. That way I’m opting in every month instead of opting out, which I will likely forget to do anyway

ggg
ggg
1 year ago

Maybe this only works for a few articles per month, but when I click on a WSJ link, it pops up a box that says “subscribe to read this article.” But I close the box, and I can read the article.

Also, my library offers free access to NY online content. You have to renew your “subscription” every 24 hours, and you don’t get the crossword, but you can read articles to your heart’s content.

Angelica
Angelica
1 year ago

OK, but there does need to be a separate post on that story. Car debt! All the car debt!

Ed
Ed
1 year ago

Libraries are offering more digital services including online subscriptions to newspapers, databases and magazines, movie streaming from anywhere. All you need is a library card, device and internet.
. And even if your library does not offer they often have reciprocal privileges with larger systems. Ask you librarian they will love to help you !

Rebecca B.
Rebecca B.
1 year ago

My husband and I were just discussing this after news that Doctor Who will leave Prime for HBO Max (which is not HBO Go). He believes Netflix and Disney will prevail and the rest will have to figure something else out. When we first cut, we did PS Vue. We missed Viacom channels (mostly Nick Jr for the kids) and left for Dirext TV Now, which lost channels and increased pricing in May. We’re now on Philo and Pluto with a Starz add-on (we had Netflix and Prime before cutting cable and continue both now). It’s exhausting and infuriating. And… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Rebecca B.

I agree. Disney and HBO can stand on their own, but I expect after this fragmenting the studios will eventually go back to the license model, or another model we haven’t seen yet. But I dont think the individual subscription paradigm will last.

Justin
Justin
1 year ago

Can’t say I agree about subscription models being purely profit driven. Obviously that’s part of it, they’re not a charity, but they do have ongoing costs and maintenance. Bug fixes take time, which costs money. When Apple overhauls some part of an OS or they release a new feature, software engineers have to change things in response, which takes time. Different operating systems require different engineers, which is an expense. Ensuring the customers who paid for your software four years ago and stay on the older OS have at least a decent experience requires attention and maintenance. Companies often pull… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It’s interesting to me that a flat fee + periodic upgrade fees vs monthly subs is so bothersome. If the cost is basically the same, I’m not seeing the big deal. I suppose people could spend $60 and never choose to maintain/update it, but it just seems like a different pay model for the same cost.

I will NEVER complain about the cost to access good journalism. I’m a local subscriber, and digital for the NYT and WaPo. We’re all screwed if people don’t support or value it.

Eileen
Eileen
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Ok, I suppose if you’re holding on to s/w for up to 14 years, you are coming out ahead! 🙂 It would be interesting to see the revenue modeling/subscription forecasting for one of these decisions (YNAB for example). Just to see it all laid out. I guess the subscribe and forget is part of the calc. For example, I re-upped my Sirius/XM sub last year with a super cheap 6 month rate. I wrote on my calendar when to call to negotiate again and didn’t get to it. I’ve now been charged my 2nd month at the high rate. So,… Read more »

Ivan
Ivan
1 year ago

Thanks J. D. I Love being able to read your blog for free. And I will be happy to donate from time to time.
I wait for articles to come up and read them on my spare time.
It’s interesting to bring up this topic to the table.
For me Netflix has become non optional, and some alternatives don’t fulfill my needs.
I will make the exercise but I think I am pretty down to the basics on subscriptions.
Thanks again.

Darron Davis
Darron Davis
1 year ago

You are right as usual JD. I am currently using a version of Quicken 2010 that I have isolated to keep from updating, to avoid Quicken shifting me to a subscription model. Yes, I have to manually add receipts and reconcile, but worthit not to have ot pay a fee. My next battle is with Microsoft Office, which I use extensively to manage our finances. After that, Norton Security is on the hit list. Only 2 things that I find worth the fee to renew annually are Amazon Prime, and MalwareBytes. Prime because we get the value from it in… Read more »

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

Yeap, I learned a long time ago there is no free lunch.
Thanks goodness for the library, though. We get most of our entertainment from there.
Luckily, I’ve always practiced digital minimization. We don’t subscribe to anything so I don’t have to cut back.
It’s super annoying with WSJ and NYT. Do they pay Google somehow? Why are their articles on top of the searches?

Straker
Straker
1 year ago

This is the best article on here in months! This is not to say that other articles are bad, just that I really enjoy this, “cranky old man” and all. FWIW, I’m 30, so not able to claim that status yet, but oh man do I agree and love the philosophical rant intertwined with financial. In general…bring on the rants!

Carmine
Carmine
1 year ago

I’ve got a long way to go still, but I’ve found that as I’ve made progress in getting more financially stable I’ve actually become more willing and interested in subscribing to things that I love. I fully admit, a good chunk of this is probably excess creeping back into my lifestyle that I really need to revisit and excise again, eternal vigilance and all that. But aside from that, there are things I actually feel GOOD about supporting and paying for on a recurring basis. Charity, for example. I give monthly to some 501c(3) organizations, like PBS (which actually has… Read more »

Bill
Bill
1 year ago

Not that I browse obits every day, but didn’t they used to be printed as a public service? Now it seems half the time, the publisher of the obit won’t let you read it unless you sign up for their trial subscription. I wonder what will fill the vacuum when streaming does become too expensive for the average person. I can sit and watch endless free Youtube videos, but even they’re starting to charge $10/month for some channels.

Anne
Anne
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

Bill, your comment takes me back to the late ’80s when one of my duties for a daily newspaper was the obits. We got all info from calling local funeral homes. There was a particular formula to be used that, in my opinion, had some class.

When that was stopped and families started writing their own, I thought that some of them really lacked dignity.

Just a rant from an old lady. (Now get off my lawn. ) ?

Peter Payne
Peter Payne
1 year ago

Mark my words, the next recession will feature lots of article about how “monthly subscription creep” caused more damage to people’s finances than all the avocado toast in the world.

I give great loyalty to programs that charge me only once, or every few years after a major upgrade. Yoga apps that ask me to pay $19.95 a month for something I clearly won’t actually use get deleted faster than you cay say “no thanks.”

Francis
Francis
1 year ago

If there are apps/services that you really enjoy, intend to keep, and are on iOS platforms, buy discounted iTunes gift cards to save a few bucks. I usually can find them at least 15% discounted and the savings adds up. Before I sign up for ANYTHING online, I’ll find out if they’re on iOS.

Hansel N. Bernstein
Hansel N. Bernstein
1 year ago

Just a factual correction: if you register an email and password at NYT you still get 10 free articles a month. Granted they will try to sell you a sub and so on. If you are willing to pay, watch the entry offers, they vary by time of the month. I have seen a 99 cents a month deal for several months.

Goat Finja
Goat Finja
1 year ago

Middle class is suffering and paying the price to stay in middle class. Median household income in the U.S. was $61,372 at the end of 2017, according to the Census Bureau. With inflation this is just around 2000 level. In that same period average tuition at public colleges went up 549% and health care costs rose about 276%. You add housing and car price increases and you definitely have a struggling middle class.

Jenn
Jenn
1 year ago

I just wanted to comment that: I don’t think any of the subscription services you mention are really worth it- except Pzizz. Its the only one I give money to, and happily.

Tess Robison
Tess Robison
11 months ago

Super interesting article! It’s funny to think that cable and other TV services are going out of style only to circle right back around…because basically that is what paying for all these streaming services will be like right? It will be like paying for certain “channels” we want which is basically what cable is – or was. Makes me want to create an app that allows you to pay for all these services in one lumped monthly payment and it combines all the services in one… JD let me know if you wanna get in on this business lol. You… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
11 months ago

In the past few weeks The Atlantic website has started having warnings about how you’ve read 1 of your few free articles this month. So when they start asking for payment appears to be: now.

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