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The new world of subscriptions

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Good morning, and happy Sunday! Here’s your weekly roundup of the best stuff from the week.

Everything you need, for a few bucks a month

Years ago, subscribing to everything sounded like a great idea, whether it was personal or professional. Netflix and Spotify? Sure, I’ll pony up for that, it’s so convenient! Slack and Asana? Great, it’s nice to have the freedom to choose the best software for the task at hand! Salesforce and some AWS instances? I can’t believe people did work before they had this ability to spin stuff up from nowhere!

We all felt so alive, didn’t we, invigorated by not having to buy tech as a thing in a box with a price tag. Everything came with the promise of constant upgrades and lifelong support, and the companies loved it, because recurring revenue is a very good type of revenue indeed.

But that didn't last long. We soon realized that we were paying for five streaming services, didn’t use the same productivity software as two-thirds of the office and had IT departments on the phone about the eye-watering costs of all those software systems that we’d decided to start using on a whim.

It’s not that we’ve fallen out of love with subscriptions so much as we’ve just gotten very, very used to them. It's how we consume content, and on the other side, it’s how many of us make money. But the interesting thing about any practice that becomes normalized is that people do weird things with it, push boundaries and dream up wild new use cases that would have once seemed unimaginable. So, this week, we’ve been studying how subscriptions have transformed the tech industry, and what happens next.

We’ve looked at bad practices, like the dark patterns that companies use to keep consumers paying up every month and how they’re coming under scrutiny. We’ve found out how people decide which subscriptions to keep and which to ditch. We’ve looked at how companies are rethinking the business model, their hand forced by users who are increasingly jumping ship. We’ve explored how cloud providers and SaaS companies are helping customers monitor and control their cloud costs. We took a look at how subscriptions could still change some industries, from the death of car ownership to the rise of subscription gaming services. And a lot more.

Here’s a rundown of all the stories for you to settle down with on this fine Sunday morning:

Monday, April 25

Robinhood and Coinbase have a fix for volatile trading revenues

Cloud spending is hard to control. Cloud providers only do so much to help.

The FTC is going after dark patterns. That’s bad news for Amazon Prime.

How sharing cars can make cities more livable

Tuesday, April 26

Truebill turned canceling subscriptions into the ultimate recurring-revenue business

Most consumers don’t appreciate subscriptions. Productivity nerds do.

Subscriptions won’t take over the game industry anytime soon

It’s possible to save money on cloud computing, but it will cost you

Wednesday, April 27

Voter engagement as a service: Votus plans a personal touch for politicians

Auto-renewing subscriptions are irritating. Some states are cracking down.

Thursday, April 28

Netflix & churn: Streaming services struggle with subscribers jumping ship

Banks need to start cashing in on the subscription economy

Weather subscription services are increasingly essential on an overheating Earth.

Friday, April 29

People subscribe to the weirdest things

Starlink report card: SpaceX’s satellite internet service is still catching up to broadband


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You tell us

Earlier this week, we asked you to tell us which subscription service you can't live without. The likes of Amazon Prime, Spotify and Netflix cropped up a lot, but here are three of our more unusual responses.

“My favorite is HP ink.” — Linda Matthews

“This one seemed like a necessity at the time and I just can't let it go. Remember the early days of the pandemic? When toilet paper was essentially impossible to find? Well, I started subscribing to Who Gives A Crap — an eco-friendly toilet paper subscription service. Do I have an entire closet filled with this product? Maybe…” — Rob Banning

“CNN+” — Steve Burgess

The best of Protocol

It’s official: Elon Musk is buying Twitter — Sarah Roach

Well, what a week that was. There’s been so much to unpack since Monday, from the sale being the death of Web 2.0 to Musk’s approach to free speech to plans for an ad-free Twitter. It was exhausting, but they’re all great reads if you decided to ignore the news for the week and want to catch up.

Highlights from a big week of earnings

We don’t cover the drumbeat of earnings here at Protocol, because all so often there’s very little to say. But this week there was one big bombshell: Robinhood is in trouble, with its revenue down 43% compared to the same quarter last year. Elsewhere, Netflix announced that it had laid off some staff following disastrous Q1 earnings. And the AWS money machine? That still goes brrrr.

How to use synthetic data — Kevin McAllister

If you’re just starting out thinking about synthetic data, our Braintrust has your back. Making the data realistic, achieving workable distributions and studying potential biases are all hurdles that companies face, and our panel of experts explained how you should think about all of those issues.

There are no DEI experts — Amber Burton

Amber spoke to Beric Alleyne, the global head of Diversity and Inclusion at eBay, and he had a ton of useful things to say about DEI, the role of chief diversity officers and why he’s optimistic about the future of diversity and inclusion at eBay.

Google Cloud sales leader Rob Enslin is leaving the company — Donna Goodison

We had the scoop this week on how Rob Enslin, Google Cloud’s president and top executive in charge of global sales under CEO Thomas Kurian, was leaving the company. He’s gone to be co-CEO of UiPath, but Google Cloud is using his departure to streamline its sales and customer success organization.

Ron DeSantis vetoes rooftop solar bill because the gas prices are too damn high — Brian Kahn

Disincentivizing rooftop solar was incredibly unpopular even before the gas price surge. Now, it's politically untenable in deep red Florida. Brian took a look at how unpopular legislation moved through the chambers in Florida — only to be struck down by DeSantis at the last.

How Meta uses Meta’s workplace tools — Lizzy Lawrence

If you use any of Meta’s workplace tools, you’ll want to read this. And if you don’t, it’s an excellent insight into how companies are starting to use VR at work.


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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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