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The Streaming Shuffle ?

The Streaming Shuffle ?

streaming logos

A few days ago, we decided to cancel Hulu, one of our favorite streaming services. When I went to make the change, there was an option to pause the service for 12 weeks with no fees, so that’s what I did. The same night, I went to HBO Max, a favorite we canceled in May and cranked it up again after six months. Going into the holidays, we have months of HBO shows and movies that built up over the summer.

I call this The Streaming Shuffle and going forward, it’s how we’ll save a bit of money and always have entertainment options accumulating in the background.

For most of my adult life, this wasn’t possible. Once a choice was made about which cable or satellite service to use, you were locked in. You had their dishes and set-top boxes, which made it a hassle to switch. And that’s how the services liked it.

Now that TV is quickly transitioning to web-based streaming services, the hardware is mostly gone and so is the lock-in. The options are based on monthly subscriptions that can be turned on and off at any time. Finally, we can choose what works for us.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. What once came with a single service is now spread across multiple. To replicate the selection of cable or satellite you must now subscribe to a number of streaming services, each with its own monthly fee. And it adds up quickly. Here’s a quick run-down of the major players:

Cable Alternatives (local networks, plus cable channels):

  • YouTube TV
  • Hulu + Live TV
  • DirectTV Streaming

Streaming Services (each with its own libraries and licensed content)

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • HBO Max
  • Apple TV+
  • Hulu
  • Disney
  • ESPN+
  • Paramount+
  • Peacock
  • Discovery+

Today we have a wide selection of services, but they’re all fragmented and have independent pricing. It’s not reasonable to subscribe to everything, so we have to figure out the right mix for our tastes, which can mean subscribing to five different services, with five log-ins and five bills. What’s a person to do?

Here’s what we did…

We watch a lot of sports and like to have a service like cable/satellite to access local events, news, and sports channels like Fox Sports for soccer. For this, we subscribe to YouTube TV, which is a pretty impressive service. It includes an unlimited DVR service and is about $70 per month. Hulu offers something similar. 

In terms of the streaming services, some of our services will stay put. Netflix, for example, is subsidized by our T-Mobile plan. We use Amazon Prime for more than entertainment, so we’ll stick with it, too. But outside those, we’re doing the shuffle between:

  • HBO Max
  • Apple TV+
  • Hulu
  • Disney

Having just restarted HBO, it will carry us through the holidays. Meanwhile, the other services will be introducing new shows that we’ll miss, initially. Maybe in 12 weeks, Hulu will, again, be the darling, or maybe AppleTV+. That’s the beauty of the streaming shuffle: the good stuff accumulates so when you switch, it seems like there are more options and less brainless browsing. 

What are you enjoying on HBO Max right now? Reply and let me know.

Indy Publishing and the Discourse Blog

Indy Publishing and the Discourse Blog

In October of 2019, a news website called Splinter, which was under the same management at Gizmodo and Jezebel, was shuttered and the staff was fired. So, a group of Splinter writers created a new news site that became a labor of love. It’s called the Discourse Blog.

This story probably sounds familiar, but I think its outcome is becoming a model for the future. The people at Discourse developed the new site and earned an audience, but the content remained free. The model wasn’t supporting their livelihoods. At the same time, they saw an opportunity to have unconventional aspirations that went against industry trends. As co-owner Aleksander Chan wrote:

But we’re also immensely motivated by what we hope will be a new frontier in digital media: Truly independent, worker-owned and operated publications. We have zero aspirations to grow into an enormous media conglomerate making hundreds of millions of dollars; arguably, one reason why so many publications are struggling and thousands of journalists have lost their jobs is because all the wrong people are getting into the business to become the next Murdochs, Redstones, Sulzbergers, etc. 

The team recently announced that the blog would soon be available with a paid subscription ($8 per month or $85 per year). Aleks goes on to say that the team has a different perspective when it comes to aspirations for the business.

Our ambitions, we think, are appropriately modest: a small, sustainable business that helps support our livelihoods doing work that is uncompromised by larger corporate interests. No chasing pageviews, no insane, hockey-stick growth goals. Just posts we believe in and actually want to publish.

How refreshing! This is a trend that I hope gains traction. It’s built on the basic idea of Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans essay from 2008, which has a big influence on me and Common Craft’s design.

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

His essay was one of the first to open my eyes to the potential to aspire to serve a small but dedicated audience. A big part of that idea is working directly with customers, which Discourse is doing with subscriptions. I wish them great success.

At Common Craft, we spent a decade experimenting with independent publishing. See how we did it in Big Enough.