/// Understanding the New Boom in Subscriptions

March 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital


More than a century before Netflix and Hulu and Spotify first charged subscribers to satisfy their daily media cravings, another device existed called the Théâtrophone 1 . From 1881 to 1932, telephonic devices called Théâtrophones were made available to dignitaries and guests in luxury hotels who required their daily fix of live opera performances via subscription fee — 50 centimes for five minutes. While the Théâtrophone was an impressive invention in its day, the subscription model itself has a prolific and fascinating history of enabling innovation throughout the world. Subscriptions have helped companies pioneer new distribution models across a diverse set of business applications; all in the name of seeking efficient annuity revenue streams that outweigh the cost of production and distribution. From an end-customer “subscriber” perspective, the convenience of easy access or repeat consumption can greatly outweigh the incremental cost of subscribing. Subscriptions have historically also found ways to take on greater social meaning through the signaling of a certain status by way of access to a secret society, social club or charitable organization. In the 1700s, by “subscribing” to become a benefactor to a charitable organization or society, individuals were able to achieve certain significance amongst their peers. Subscriptions to charity balls and full-seasons of theatre access were as much of a status symbol as they were convenient. Country clubs, yacht clubs, athletic clubs, fraternities and other private clubs have almost always been entirely member funded by way of the subscription membership model. Memberships, dues, donations and even tithing from the Catholic Church were achieved via scheduled “subscription” payments

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Understanding the New Boom in Subscriptions


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