Subscription Overload

"In the cloud" is the buzz phrase of today. "Over subscribed" will be the lament of tomorrow.

We celebrate SaaS (Software as a Service) products that are populating the web for their sheer convenience. As we move about the planet, we need to access our "stuff" from anywhere, and from any computer or device. SaaS has made that happen, and as we spend more and more time using our browser window as our software application, the tally for the cost rises.

Currently I am paying a monthly SaaS fee for:

  1. Hosting my website on Squarespace
  2. Learning new stuff on Lynda.com
  3. Doing my bookkeeping on Intuit's QuickBooks Online
  4. Serving and sharing content via MobileMe

It totals around $100 a month. That doesn't seem like much, and every one of these items are deductible expenses for my business. But it adds up, fella.

Many SaaS services are free, or have free versions with limited capabilities. Kind of like a long-term trial. If you like it, pay to receive a more robust or fuller version. It's a good model for today, but is it sustainable?

Competition will level things out as it always does, and the great thing about subscriptions is that it works like a popularity club. The better you do, the cooler you are, the more awesome your service is, the more subscribers you'll have. It's very democratic and often many SaaS companies use their subscriber base to continuously improve their product as it's being actively used. Because it lives "in the cloud" there is a constant connection between SaaS provider and subscribers, and if the provider has a good rapport supported by good technology that pulls subscriber feedback into the organization, they can really innovate and improve their product.

The potential problem is when the cost to subscribe outweighs the benefit of the subscription and when users get "subscription burnout" and their budget can no longer handle all of the SaaS subscriptions. Somebody's gotta go. Why buy a magazine when you can get it online for free? Why buy a dictionary when you can find your word online for free? Why buy a paper or suffer through the interruptions of ads on television when you can consume information faster in an online reader?

The internet has changed so much for us, but the new solutions have birthed a host of new dilemmas. Those new dilemmas will then create a set of new solutions that create yet again, new dilemmas, and so on. We are problem solvers, so we'll make the most of it while trying to capitalize on it and make a buck here and there.

When you listen to the customer voice, you'll hear what they want. But if you feel it first, take advantage of a new market opportunity and create something that solves that dilemma for them. Even if it's as simple as reducing your subscription rate to, well, let's say, zero?