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June 16, 2019
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Subscription fatigue hasn’t hit yet

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U.S. consumers are still embracing subscriptions. More than a third (34%) of Americans say they believe they’ll increase the number of subscription services they use over the next two years, according to a new report from eMarketer. This is following an increase to 3 subscription services on average, up from 2.4 services five years ago.

The report cited data from subscription platform Zuora and The Harris Poll in making these determinations.

The study also debunks the idea that we’ve reached a point of subscription fatigue.

While only a third is planning to increase the number of subscriptions — a figure that’s in line with the worldwide average — the larger majority of U.S. internet users said they planned to use the same number of subscriptions services within two years as they do now.

In other words, they’re not paring down their subscriptions just yet — in fact, only 7 percent said they planned to subscribe to fewer services in the two years ahead.

However, that’s both good news and bad news for the overall subscription industry. On the one hand, it means there’s a healthy base of potential subscribers for new services. But it also means that many people may only adopt a new subscription by dropping another — perhaps to maintain their current budget.

Subscriptions, after all, may still feel like luxuries. No one needs Netflix, Spotify, groceries delivered to their home or curated clothing selections sent by mail, for example. There are non-subscription alternatives that are much more affordable. The question is which luxuries are worth the recurring bill?

The survey, however, did not define subscription services, which could include news and magazine subscriptions, digital streaming services, subscription box services, and more. But it did ask about consumers’ interest in the various categories.

Over half of U.S. consumers (57%) said they were interested in TV and video-on-demand services (like Netflix) and 38 percent were interested in music services.

Related to this, eMarketer forecasts U.S. over-the-top video viewers will top 193 million by 2021, or 57.3 percent of the population. Digital audio listeners will top 211 million by the same time, or 63.1 percent of the population.

The next most popular subscriptions in the survey were grocery delivery like AmazonFresh (32%) and meal delivery like Blue Apron (21%). Software and storage services like iCloud and subscription beauty services like Ipsy followed, each with 17 percent.

Consumers were less interested in subscription news and information and subscription boxes — the latter only saw 10 percent interest, in fact.

The figures should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. The meal kit market is actually struggling. The consulting firm NPD Group estimated that only 4 percent of U.S. consumers have even tried them. So there’s a big disconnect between what consumers say they’re interested in, and what they actually do.

Meanwhile, the supposedly less popular news and information services market is, in some cases, booming. The New York Times, for instance, just this month posted a higher profit and added 223,000 digital subscribers to reach 4.5 million paying customers. And Apple now has “hundreds of people” working on Apple News+, it said this week. 

Of course, consumers will at some point reach a limit on the number of services they’re willing to pay for, but for the time being, the subscription economy appears solid.

 

Streaming accounted for nearly half of music revenues worldwide in 2018

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The scales are about to tip in favor of streaming music becoming the number one driver of global recorded music revenues — a shift that appears to be on track for sometime this year. According to a new industry report, global recorded music revenues jumped 9.7 percent in 2018 to reach $19.1 billion — up from $17.4 billion in 2017. Streaming music revenues, in particular, now account for nearly half (47 percent) of global revenue, thanks to a sizable 32.9 percent jump in paid streaming last year. This brought streaming revenues to $8.9 million in 2018, and puts them on track for a further jump in 2019.

This is the fourth consecutive year of growth for the global music market, and the highest rate of growth since IFPI — the music industry trade group behind the new report — first started tracking the market in 1997.

Paid streaming accounted for the majority of streaming’s contribution to revenues, with a 37 percent share of the market versus ad-supported streaming’s 10 percent share.

At year-end, there were 255 million users of paid subscription streaming accounts, the report found.

Meanwhile, physical disks dropped 10.1 percent over the past year, to account for 24.7 percent of revenues. Within that segment, vinyl is still growing — it posted its 13th consecutive year of growth, to reach a 3.6 share of the market. But it couldn’t make up for the fact that physical format revenue, overall, still declined.

As consumers drop physical disks, they continue to turn to digital.

Digital revenues grew by 21.1 percent in 2018 to reach $11.2 billion — which represents the first time they’ve crossed the $10 billion mark, the report noted. Within this category, streaming grew by 34 percent to reach $8.9 billion (~$7 billion was paid subscription streaming), while downloads declined 21.2 percent to 7.7 percent of the market.

In 38 markets, digital makes up more than half of revenues, the report said.

Revenues from performance rights and synchronization revenue (the use of music in TV, movies, games and ads), represented a 14 percent and 2.3 percent share of the total music market, respectively.

North America, in particular, posted another year of double-digit revenue growth with a 14 percent jump, with strong streaming growth (33.4 percent) offsetting the physical revenue declines (-22 percent).

Asia and Australia overtook Europe to become the second largest global region for revenues with 11.7 percent growth. And Latin America was the fastest growing region, with 16.8 percent growth.

In order, the top markets by revenue were: the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Germany, France, South Korea, China, Australia, Canada and Brazil.

Digging into Apple’s media transformation

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Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Panzarino, offered his analysis on the major announcements that came out of Apple’s keynote event this past Monday.

Behind a series of new subscription and media products, Apple has set the stage for one of the largest transformations in the company’s history. Matthew touches on all of Apple’s major product initiatives including Apple’s new credit card, its push into original content, its subscription gaming platform, and its subscription news service, which features Extra Crunch as one of the debut publications.

“I don’t think many of the things that Apple announced here, on an individual basis, are earth-shattering. I think it shapes up to be a really solid, nice offering for people with some distinct advantages but at the same time it’s not breaking huge molds here. I think the same thing applies across all of the offerings that they put out there.

I just felt that together, it’s solid but not scintillating and we need to see how they develop, how they launch, and then what they do with these platforms…

…Seems relatively straightforward. However, some of the stuff people have glossed over is very intriguing.”

Matthew goes into more detail on why he didn’t view the announcements as individually earth-shattering, and why he sees compelling opportunities for Apple to position its offerings as a symbiotic ecosystem. He also goes under the hood to discuss some of Apple’s overlooked competitive advantages in media and to paint a picture of how Apple’s new product lines might evolve in the long-term.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

iOS developers will soon be able to offer discounts to their existing and lapsed subscribers

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As subscriptions continue to grow into a sizable revenue stream for mobile app developers, Apple has had to make adjustments to its guidelines, rules and even its tools for subscription management in recent weeks. It issued stricter guidelines around how subscriptions are to be presented to consumers, and it made the setting for canceling existing subscriptions more accessible. Now, Apple is rolling out new tools for developers that will help them retain their current customers and win back lapsed subscribers.

The company announced on Friday that apps with auto-renewable subscriptions will soon be able to offer their subscriptions at a discounted price for a specific period, as a means of growing and retaining their customer base. This will give the developers more control over their subscription pricing than was available before.

Until the change, developers could only make introductory offers to entice consumers to sign up for the first time. For example, developers could lure customers with a one-time introductory price, offer a free trial or offer a discounted rate for a specific period of time before the subscription converted to the full price.

But these offers could only be made to first-time customers. The new promotional offers will allow developers to cut similar deals for existing subscribers or to win back the business from those who used to pay for the subscription but had canceled.

While the new promotional offers allow for the same sort of discounts as introductory offers, they’re more flexible in terms of how they’re used.

With introductory offers, developers were allowed one offer per subscription, per territory. With promotional offers, developers can activate up to 10 offers per subscription. This allows them to test which ones work best for their customers, instead of having to pick just one.

And developers are in control of when an offer displays to a customer, in which territories and how many offers a customer can redeem.

In addition, while introductory offers may display in the App Store when promoted, the promotional offers will not. That means developers can use business logic that targets winning back their most valuable customers with offers that may be better from those shown to others — and no one would be the wiser. It also means developers can offer different deals to lapsed customers — like maybe a discounted subscription — compared with promos meant to retain current subscribers.

Developers will also be able to use receipt validation tools to find subscribers who turned off auto-renewal, which allows them to target those customers with new offers before their subscription lapses. They may also decide to target those who cancel during the free trial with different offers than those who cancel after using a paid subscription for a time.

As an end-user looking to save money, these changes mean it may be worth toggling off your subscriptions from time to time to see if you’re offered a better deal to resubscribe.

Developers were alerted to the new features last week, but the offers themselves aren’t yet publicly available.

To create the offers, developers have to download the latest Xcode 10.2 beta and will need to implement the new StoreKit APIs. They can then test their offers on the latest beta version of iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4 and tvOS 12.2. Apple said the offers will be made available to the public “soon.”

US iPhone users spent, on average, $79 on apps last year, up 36% from 2017

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Apple’s push to get developers to build subscription-based apps is now having a notable impact on App Store revenues. According to a new report from Sensor Tower due out later this week, revenue generated per U.S. iPhone grew 36 percent, from $58 in 2017 to $79 last year. As is typical, much of that increase can be attributed to mobile gaming, which accounted for more than half of this per-device average. However, more substantial growth took place in the categories outside of gaming — including those categories where subscription-based apps tend to rule the top charts, the firm found.

According to the report’s findings, per-device app spending in the U.S. grew more over the past year than it did in 2017.

From 2017 to 2018, iPhone users spent an average of $21 or more on in-app purchases and paid app downloads — a 36 percent increase compared with the 23 percent increase from 2016 to 2017, when revenue per device grew from $47 to $58.

However, 2018’s figure was slightly lower than the 42 percent increase in average per-device spending seen between 2015 and 2016, when revenue grew from $33 to $47, noted Sensor Tower.

As usual, mobile gaming continued to play a large role in iPhone spending. In 2018, gaming accounted for nearly 56 percent of the average consumer spend — or $44 out of the total $79 spent per iPhone.

But what’s more interesting is how the non-gaming categories fared this past year.

Some categories — including those where subscription-based apps dominate the top charts — saw even higher year-over-year growth in 2018, the firm found.

For example, Entertainment apps grew their spend per device increase by 82 percent to $8 of the total in 2018. Lifestyle apps increased by 86 percent to reach $3.90, up from $2.10.

And though it didn’t make the top five, Health & Fitness apps also grew 75 percent year-over-year to account for an average of $2.70, up from $1.60 in 2017.

Other categories in the top five included Music and Social Networking apps, which both grew by 22 percent.

This data indicates that subscription apps are playing a significant role in helping drive iPhone consumer spending higher.

The news comes at a time when Apple has reported slowing iPhone sales, which is pushing the company to lean more on services to continue to boost its revenue. This includes not just App Store subscriptions, but also things like Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, App Store Search ads, AppleCare and more.

As subscriptions become more popular, Apple will need to remain vigilant against those who would abuse the system.

For example, a number of sneaky subscription apps were found plaguing the App Store in recent weeks. They were duping users into paid memberships with tricky buttons, hidden text, instant trials that converted in days and the use of other misleading tactics.

Apple later cracked down by removing some of the apps, and updated its developer guidelines with stricter rules about how subscriptions should both look and operate.

A failure to properly police the App Store or set boundaries to prevent the overuse of subscriptions could end up turning users off from downloading new apps altogether — especially if users begin to think that every app is after a long-term financial commitment.

Developers will need to be clever to convert users and retain subscribers amid this shift away from paid apps to those that come with a monthly bill. App makers will need to properly market their subscription’s benefits, and even consider offering bundles to increase the value.

But in the near-term, the big takeaway for developers is that there is still good money to be made on the App Store, even if iPhone sales are slowing.

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