Posts from February 27, 2004

The RSS revolution!

The RSS revolution!
: Hoder sees the Yahoo RSS aggregator as a powerful weapon against government censorship. When Yahoo — rather than a user in Tehran — gets an RSS feed of a forbidden site and the user reads it via Yahoo, then the mullahs are powerless to block the free flow of information. Now, of course, other web-based aggregators offer the same detour around the censors but Hoder says that Yahoo adds extra oomph because he doubts that the mullahs have the balls to try to block it. Praise God and pass the XML.

I need a subscription consolidator

I need a subscription consolidator
: Reading an out-of-date Fortune at the pool on the last day of vacation today, I was struck by a tech trend in “subscription burnout” and immediately conjured up a new business category:

Subscription consolidator.

Once upon a time, McDonald’s had problems with truck deliveries all day long taking up staff time (first ketchup, then mustard, then pickles…) and so they created a whole new industry: The freight consolidator, who accepts all those deliveries and puts them together so a McDonald’s can accept just one delivery with everything.

Fortune made me think I need the same thing for all my many subscriptions and the benefit could be that it would prevent burnout.

Consider my many paid subscriptions:

- Cable (or satellite) with many channels.

- Internet access (high-speed and dial-up for road trips).

- Internet services (AOL, Yahoo mail, Real video).

- Home phone.

- Mobile phone.

- Mobile phone Internet services.

- Software (licenses for may Treo functions, for example).

- Many newspapers.

- Many magazines.

- Internet content (not much: Wall Street Journal, for one).

- Satellite radio (contemplated, especially if Stern bolts).

- TiVo (contemplated).

- Audible (rejected because of bad customer service).

- And on and on.

: So what about a service that consolidates and bundles many or most of these subscriptions (as a debt consolidator consolidates debt) and offers me great deals (e.g, if you like ESPN, you might like this great online sports service for a special bundled price).

Advantages to consumer: Less hassle keeping track of — and renewing or being harrassed by — so many subscriptions. Less sense of being nickel-and-dimed to death. More sense of control. Better deals, attractive bundles.

Advantages to subcription company: Greatly reduced marketing costs as subscribers are acquired — and renewed — by the consolidator. New marketing channel to new subscribers and for upsells to existing subscribers.

Advantages to content industry: This creates a new channel for testing and launching new products. It could even be used to launch microsubscriptions (as opposed to micropayments): Subscriptions to new online products — yes, even weblogs and RSS feeds — could be sold as an add-on or added-value bundle.

: Take the problem of subscription burnout — and it is a very real problem — and find the business opportunity: Your personal subscription deal-maker.

I’d sign up.

: UPDATE: Forgot to mention that, of course, AOL Time Warner should be the perfect agent to do this since they have pieces of so many subscription products but, of course, they couldn’t figure it out within their own company, let alone without. I was there when it added the Warner and they never could figure out how to spell synergy, let alone do it.

Rafat Ali likes the idea and wants an established company — an Amazon or Yahoo — to fill the role because he doesn’t trust his data to a startup. Maybe. Another question is whether an established company is in a better position to deal with all the other established companies or whether it takes a new middleman; this is a dog-eat-dog world.

In any case, Rafat picks up on the important point: We need to look at this from the consumer perspective. And from that perspective, there is a subscription industry and it needs to get its act together to avoid burning us all out.