By Lauren Indvik2013-09-30 07:01:26 UTC
Two decades ago, built its business by bundling Internet access with web-browsing software, an offering now responsible for less than a third of AOL's revenues. But AOL isn't done with subscriptions just yet, announcing Monday a new set of packages called Gathr.
bundles a number of existing subscription products and services, like Pandora One and magazines, and offers them at a discount. Bundles are targeted at various consumer groups: A "Man Cave" package, for example, offers subscriptions to Maxim and Car and Driver magazines, as well as a subscription to the ad-free version of Pandora, three one-day video game rentals from Redbox and a $10 gift card to Amazon. Bought separately, the products and services retail for $37; Gathr is offering them for $15 per month.
are targeted at families and those concerned about Internet security.
Beyond pre-bundled packages, customers can also set of three services for $15/month. Options are rather limited -- there are 19 offered in sum, with the greatest representation from magazine publishers. Customers can add a bonus to their packages, like a monthly $10 gift card to iTunes or Amazon.
"We've always believed in bundling," Bud Rosenthal, CEO of AOL's membership and paid services group, said in a phone interview with Mashable Friday. "It's different in this case. Rather than being [bundling] that's done to you, it's an opportunity to empower customers" -- the empowering part being the option to customize your own bundle.
Rosenthal says he is confident Gathr can attract subscription numbers in the six to seven-figure range over time. "It's not going to happen overnight," he acknowledges.
The offerings strike me as uninspired and anachronistic: At a time when consumers are demanding the right to buy only a subscription to or ESPN, rather than a full cable package, why would AOL try to bundle and sell a bunch of nonessential services?
To be fair to AOL, this is only the start, and the company is likely to add more partners, and perhaps more essential services, over time. If it were to offer a broader array of subscription services -- personally, I'd sign on for one that bundled Spotify, Netflix and the magazines I already subscribe to -- it could prove seriously appealing. But therein lies the problem: The most desirable subscription services aren't the most likely to offer them at a discount.
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