illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Podcasts, Pricing and Platforms

PA Post and Spotlight PA merge, Albertson’s launches a grocery delivery subscription and NPR launches a podcast subscription service.

In this week’s edition of Five on Friday, PA Post and Spotlight PA merge to form a mega-statewide news organization in Pennsylvania, Alberton’s adds a new grocery delivery subscription service, and NPR launches a podcast subscription service, NPR Plus. Also, Microsoft will raise prices for the business version of Office 365 next March and Super takes a new approach to creators and subscriptions.

PA Post Merges with Spotlight PA to Create Mega Statewide News Org

Pennsylvania is about to get a giant news organization. The PA Post is merging with Spotlight PA, to help create the largest statewide news organization in the eastern state. This will create a single, statewide newsroom, sharing one mission.

Based in Harrisburg, PA Post launched in September 2018 in collaboration with public and commercial media partners, as well as affiliates throughout the state. Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer. They were founded around the same time, says Spotlight PA, in an August 17, 2021 press release. The company will go forward under the name Spotlight PA.

They are looking forward to continuing reporting and growing their audience, whether it is a reader who wants to know how their tax dollars are being spent, wanting to hold elected officials accountable, or making sure their voices are heard in PA. The combined newsroom will now include fourteen reporters and editors in addition to technology and fundraising staff. There will be no changes to their weekly newsletter offerings, The Investigator, and will add new weekly coronavirus alerts, to be customized by county.

Spotlight PA will continue to operate independently of their funders, as well as maintain editorial control over all of the content they produce. Funders will not have any sway over what is posted, pursed, or affect the editing process. The newsroom also does not accept anonymous donations.

The merger went into effect August 17, says The Lenfest Institute.

Albertson’s Goes Digital, Adding a Subscription Delivery Service, New Loyalty Program and App

Albertson’s is going digital. With big names like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger offering grocery delivery in the new consumer-first environment, the Albertson’s regional grocery chain is diving in and help local consumers that want or need a close-to-home option.

With grocers going digital, consumers can prepare for their life on their time, and are able to bring groceries to them. During the pandemic, this has allowed people that are not able to leave home, or can’t make it to the store, get groceries in a more accessible format. It’s also allowed disabled shoppers get groceries directly to them, when going to the store could be a little more daunting.

The Boise, Idaho-based chain is working on launching a Deals & Delivery app, Albertson’s for U shopper loyalty program, and FreshPass, according to Winsight Grocery Business. FreshPass is slated to be the grocer’s exclusive unlimited grocery delivery service with exclusive member perks. FreshPass is going to cost subscribers $12.99 a month, or $99 a year plus applicable taxes. The subscription will give shoppers free unlimited delivery on orders over $30, rewards that don’t expire, as well as an exclusive VIP customer service line. There will also be a monthly Starbucks perk. It is estimated that FreshPass users will save up to $395 per year. This service is optional.

Albertsons for U will allow customers to shop, save and redeem rewards in one place, whether they are shopping from home, or in-store. Albertsons For U allows a customized rewards experience. Membership for Albertsons for U is free, and new members get $5 off their next in-store purchase, according to Produce Blue Book.

NPR Launches Podcast Subscription Platform – NPR Plus

Wanting to get a bigger piece of the podcast pie, NPR is expanding their offerings past talk radio and podcasting on Apple Podcasts. In a press release on August 17, NPR announced their plans for their own subscription platform – NPR Plus.

Podcasts that NPR offers include Code Switch, How I Built This, Planet Money, and more. With NPR’s podcast subscription option, this allows podcasters to present their programs sponsor-free, for just $2.99/month per podcast. There is also a discounted rate, allowing users to purchase access for a year for $29.99.  The per-podcast rate allows users to support whichever podcasts they choose, and not have to pay for anything extra that they may not be listening to.

Instead of limiting options for platforms to listen to, with NPR Plus, users will be able to access sponsor-free feeds regardless of where you listen to podcasts. When NPR was just limited to Apple Podcasts, users from Spotify, iHeartRadio, and other podcasting offerings weren’t able to access these same benefits. In order to get access to this benefit, users will simply have to link their NPR Plus Podcast feed to their preferred listening app, says Inside Radio.

Users that purchase directly through NPR won’t have to worry about Apple’s share revenue, the so-called Apple tax. Before Apple started Apple Podcasts, podcasters would have to share 15% of its subscription revenue with Apple. Their new rate is 30% for the first year. Purchasing directly from NPR will allow them to help support their creators with every cent they can.

NPR’s Podcasting subscriptions will be available in the US, as well as select countries outside of the U.S.

Microsoft to Increase Office 365 Business Subscription Prices Starting March 2022

For the first time in 11 years, Microsoft will raise the prices of its Office 365 subscription. The price increase is due to Microsoft expanding Office in recent years, and their recent switch to helping those that are working remotely.

Cloud services fuel Microsoft's revenue growth in FY21 Q2.

Office has expanded a lot in recent years, due to the growth in advanced cloud subscriptions. They came out with software like Teams since the last price hike, which rose in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other new software since the 2011 price hike include Whiteboard, a collaboration app, and Power Platform, which helps non-developers with application-development tools.

The price hike will continue to boost Microsoft’s total revenue and profit. Office 365 is the company’s top product when you look at sales, according to CNBC. While Microsoft still sells individual licenses, it’s companies that purchase commercial licensing where Office shines.

Most tiers are not changing more than two dollars. The highest price change comes from the E3 variant of Microsoft 365, which will change from $32/month to $36/month. The E3 variant is the highest tier of their subscription offerings, and this is due to it coming with a version of Windows on it. The Business Basic tier will go up the least, just raising $1/month.

There are some Office subscriptions that won’t be changing. Microsoft 365’s E5 variant will stay the same at $57 per month, and Microsoft 365 F1 will stay at $2.25/month.

The price increase will help Microsoft continue to grow their Office cloud business. That sect of Microsoft continues to grow, even without price increases. It’s currently being utilized with cloud-based phones, as well as Teams data-loss prevention.

New pricing for Microsoft 365 goes into effect on March 1, 2022, giving consumers just over six months to prep for the new pricing.

Super – A Different Approach to Subscriptions and Creators

With content creators looking for new ways to grow their audiences and share their work, it was inevitable that they would tap into the subscription economy. We’ve seen it through Patreon, Facebook, YouTube and similar platforms. There is always a subscription for something, and Super is looking to make it easier for creators to build revenue that fir their unique approach.

Dot.La sat down with Fernando Parnes, a co-founder of Super. He was initially working on a start up called Best Being, that helped match people to wellness services. Something that sparked a change from Best Being to Super was watching videos with his fiancée, and realized the leverage that creators have. He talked to potential customers, as well as a team, and started working on Super.

When we think of creators and subscription models, the first thing that comes to mind is creating a newsletter or a Patreon-style platform, where there is a paywall to access content. Super allows creators to build experiences that fit themselves as people, versus creating an idea of themselves. Ideas that have been thrown on the table include open mic sessions, pay-per-view live streams, courses, merchandise and more.

One perk of Super is that they don’t look at subscriber count as a core metric. Subscriber counts or follower counts have often been seen as a vanity statistic, which doesn’t show how many people are actually engaging with their content. Super allows people that really want to engage with their creators to actively build relationships. It doesn’t exclude content creators. You could be a chef, a vlogger, a dancer, or another type of creator. It allows all types of creators to be able to create and share content.

Another thing that might drive creators to Super versus a platform like Patreon is the revenue cut. Super takes up to 10% from creators when they make a sale on the platform, but that is not a flat fee. The more fans sign up, and the more revenue a creator generates, the less the creator will pay in transaction fees. Sliding scale fees are sure to drive more creators to want to make this shift.

So far, the startup has raised $110,000 in funding, and they begin their first round of pre-seed funding this month.

Here is how Super describes itself to creators consider choosing their platform:

We give creators, like you, super powers to grow their revenue and superfan community. ​

You worked hard to grow your community. *super hard*. And your revenue should grow as your engaged community grows. ​

But, it’s not always that easy…​

Did you know that majority of the revenue you are making, comes from only a small percentage of your community? Yup. This is called your *engaged* community. Or superfans. Whichever you prefer. 

With Super, you can aggregate these fans in your “superhub”.​

Seamlessly launch automated interactions for these fans such as pay per view events, roundtables, bootcamps, full blown experiences, and charge them all in once place. (mind blowing, we know )​

It’s never been easier to launch and automate new revenue streams. ​

Now you can spend more time being super creative and getting rewarded for it.

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