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: Reading an out-of-date Fortune at the pool on the last day of vacation today, I was struck by a tech trend in “subscription burnout” and immediately conjured up a new business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

  • Well, a subscription clearinghouse has been the holy grail of online publishing…some startups have been trying to do that on the online side: have a look at a site called SubscriptionConnection.com, which wanted to do something similar, but has not made much headway yet. Some other startups have also tried some similar things, but tackle things from a publisher perspective, rather than a consumer solution…
    I would rather have an established company like Yahoo (it already has Yahoo! Bill Pay, which helps in paying your utility bills, as do other sites/portals) or Amazon start something like this, rather than a startup, for the simple reason that I wouldn’t want to trust so much vital data which something that might go out of business in a few years, or get acquired by some evil empire (to use a strong term)…

  • ct

    Your hero Howard Stern is on air now calling people who believe in the ‘fairytale’ of Jesus ‘stupid’.
    Brilliant stuff, Jeff.

  • Robobubba

    “Subscription consolidator”? I married mine.

  • I call it “bill-pay”. A service my bank provides that pays all of my bills automatically out of my checking account on the day(s) of my choosing. It costs an extra $5 a month, but considering the checking account is “free”, it is a small price to pay.
    And I save on postage stamps. Pay 13 bills a month this way and the savings on the stamps pay for the service.

  • Ebb Tide

    Michael P: which bank are you with? (If that’s not too personal a question.) That sounds great, since I just spent 30 mins paying my bills and another 10 mins looking for ONE stamp.
    Jeff Jarvis: re: TiVo
    I have a TiVo and really like it, but you may not need a TiVo per se, you need a PVR device, and if you already subscribe to Digital Cable, I saw in my bill that they will be offering a BUILT IN tivo-like device in their cable box. I know someone who has somelike like this in FLA and they pay under $5 a month, the PVR is built right into the cable box, it allows Season Passes and many of the same features a TiVo has, so look into it, ….. Dish Network has a combo box and DirecTv has a combo box with TiVo built in.
    But I personally really like the TiVo interface and on-screen guide and found some of the other choices “kludgey” …. but having the ability to have a menu of all kinds of shows you want to watch, in any order, ready to play when you are ready to watch is the best! It doesn’t have to be TiVo, but a PVR is a must.

  • I thought you bloggers undertook such consolidation for me. I have become quite a fan as the variety of blogs I read do a pretty good job of abstracting interesting points of view and presenting data as well as providing me with links to either original sources or good secondary sources where I decide I want more information.