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Common Reading 2022: Everything's Becoming a Subscription, and the Pandemic is Partly to Blame by Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam

Everything's Becoming a Subscription, and the Pandemic is Partly to Blame — Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam

In “Everything's Becoming a Subscription, and the Pandemic is Partly to Blame,” Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam examine how the pandemic has helped the subscription economy grow and the implications of this growth. They claim that people are spending more on subscriptions than they might realize, and with restaurants, streaming services, and sites like Tripadvisor considering moving to this model, this number will only continue to rise.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think that the subscription model will continue to spread to different services (and, if so, what services do you think will be affected)? What would be the implications of these changes?

2. What are some benefits of the subscription model? What are some problems with it? Do the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa?

Class Activity

1. Make a list of the subscriptions that you or your family are subscribed to. Make predictions about the costs of these services. Then, determine the actual monthly costs (and calculate yearly costs.) Which are you more likely to pay for: a smaller fee monthly, or one large cost? Why do you think that there is a difference?

2. Take some time to look over the website for the Sigmund Weis School of Business and see what programs are available for business-related majors.

Introduction — Theresa Finley

I have this vivid memory from a few years ago of standing on my front porch, neck craned to see the curve at the end of the street, eagerly waiting for the most exciting visitor I could expect at that time. Who was I waiting for, you may ask? A relative? A friend? No, I was waiting for the local UPS driver. 

It was April 2020. The lockdown had set in and there was no end in sight. At that time, delivery services were often our only connection to the life we had before. How many of us missed our favorite meal at a local restaurant? Or trips to the pet store with our dog to pick out a new toy?  

This article looks at a distinctive type of renewal: the automatic renewals of subscriptions. In this article from the Washington Post, Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam shine a light on the rapid growth of the subscription industry, which surged throughout the pandemic, and how it continues to positively and negatively impact consumers and businesses today.  

As you read the text, I recommend that you think about why automatic renewals exist. What problems do they solve? What problems do they create? Finally, I encourage you to reflect on what role, if any, subscriptions had on your experience during the pandemic and how they might still impact you today. 

"Subscription Affliction - Everything is $10/month" - PolyMatter

About the Authors

Heather Long is a columnist and editorial board member for The Washington Post. She appears frequently on TV and radio programs, and she is a regular contributor to Marketplace Radio. Before joining The Washington Post, Heather was an editor at CNN in charge of the markets and economy team, and a columnist and deputy editor at The Patriot-News when it won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. She is known for making economic news accessible and for powerful "real people" stories illustrating conditions in working class America. 

Andrew Van Dam is an economic data reporter at The Washington Post. He previously did similar work for the Wall Street Journal, and dissimilar work for the Boston Globe and the Idaho Press-Tribune. 

Additional Resources

Check out the page for Susquehanna University's Sigmund Weis School of Business here!

This article from ProfitWell discusses trends in subscription model economies, the future of the subscription model, and companies that are successfully implementing it. It offers advice for those looking to start their own service and information for those interested in the modern market.


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