Subscriptions Are Not the Magic Bullet

Subscriptions Are Not the Magic Bullet:

Gruber … posits in Daring Fireball that,

Up front paid apps are going the way of the dodo. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. That’s where things are going.

No editorial. No comment. Only the assertion that you plebs should mindlessly follow what your corporate overlords are setting out for you. That is Gruber now. I remember when he had a spine and insight.

These are examples of companies who are doing fine without resorting to subscriptions:

  1. OmniGroup with products OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle and OmniPlan. These products are icons in the professional category of software on the macOS. No subscriptions. One time payment with upgrade revenue on new versions.
  2. Bare Bones Software and their product BBEdit 12. One time purchase, with upgrade revenue.
  3. Things. Again, one time purchase with upgrade revenue.
  4. Highland 2. One time purchase with upgrade revenue.
  5. Utilities like Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, Alfred, LaunchBar, and so on.

I could go on. In fact, I will:

  1. ScreenFlow
  2. Fantastical and Cardhop for Mac
  3. Scrivener
  4. Final Draft
  5. iA Writer
  6. Pixelmator Pro
  7. Acorn

The irony is that Apple is not following its own advice:

  1. Logic Pro X – Apple
  2. Final Cut Pro X – Apple
  3. Pages, Numbers and Keynote are free.

Are subscriptions the only way to go?

Hell no.

What Does a Developer Do?

The carrot is increased revenue. Is that always a by-product of a subscription? The answer is the usual difficult fence-sitting one, “It depends.”

You have to consider a mixture of factors, and they act in concert:

  1. The goals for the product.
  2. The nature of the product.
  3. The nature of the market.

(Via Bicycle For Your Mind)

If you’re a developer or content creator of any kind, I recommend reading this post in full.

Thinking that the subscription model is for you? Consider that Disney announced that they are launching their own streaming platform and will pul their content from Netflix in 2019. Assuming a tech oriented audience for your product you have to deal with Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney, and maybe Hulu collectively taking at least $70US/month, streaming music taking another $10-ish, iCloud or Google Drive or Dropbox taking another $10/month chunk … 

Oh, and devices are getting more expensive, too, especially if you live in the Apple ecosystem.

When I started seriously auditing my subscriptions I was amazed at how much money I was spending each month. I’ve ditched 80% of my subscriptions with 10% of the remainder dropping off in the next 6 months. 10% will stay.

Subscriptions, while hard to track down, are easy budget saving targets. What makes software subscriptions greater targets is that they tend to overvalue themselves. For example, a Pomodoro app was recommended to me. When I checked it out, the developer asked for $5 per month for “advanced features” which should have been basic functionality. The developer’s argument was that the subscription is needed for future development … of the software equivalent of an egg timer.

Developers benefit from the subscription model, at least at the outset. Users rarely do. Part of the issue, and the change from the up-front payment model highlights this, is that there is no guarentee to the user that development will happen let alone happen in a way the user finds valuable. When users find the developer not developing – a zombie subscription, if you will – what recourse does the user have for their wasted subscription?

Exactly none. Well, one can negatively review, which will return exactly $0 to one’s account.

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