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

Five on Friday: Mobile Apps, Cloud Gaming and Free Coffee

Featuring App Annie, Panera, Fast Casual, Tubefilter and Nebula

This has been one hot week, and we aren’t just talking about the weather! We are ready to turn off the TV and head out for the weekend. Before we go, here is this week’s Five on Friday, featuring App Annie’s 2020 report on the evolution of mobile apps over the last five years, Parks Associates’ estimates about the future of cloud gaming in the U.S. and three SEO tips from Neil Patel. Also, Fast Casual shares the strategy behind Panera’s free coffee subscription for summer, and Tubefilter tells us about creator-owned streaming service Nebula hitting 100,000 paying subscribers.

App Annie 2020 Mobile App Evolution Report

How many days could you go without using an app of some kind – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Dropbox, Netflix, Candy Crush, online banking? Most of us use mobile apps every day, and how we are using apps has changed over the last five years. App Annie, who tracks the trends, just published their 2020 Mobile App Evolution Report. Here are highlights of what they’re seeing:

  • In the past five years, the global mobile app economy has had an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of 10%, total sessions have grown 15%, and total time spent on apps has increased 25%.
  • Mobile apps gain popularity quickly from word of mouth. As a result, more apps get to 1 million monthly active users and 1 million downloads faster than they did five years ago.
  • In 2019, the average global user had 93 mobile apps installed on their phone, compared to 85 in 2015, and the average global user used 41 mobile apps per month, up from 35 in 2015.
  • App Annie says features are blurring across traditional category lines. For example, gaming apps now incorporate Social features, and TikTok uses elements from different categories including Social, Video and Entertainment.
  • Of the 120 billion downloads last year, mobile app users in the U.S. downloaded 12.3 billion, followed by Japan at 2.5 billion and the U.K. at 2.1 billion.
  • The top 100 apps come from a mix of different types of companies and categories.
  • Last year, there were 4,600 mobile apps with more than 1 million monthly active users. Some of those include Netflix, Roku, Disney, Amazon, Walmart, Target, PayPal, Venmo, Uber, DoorDash and Starbucks.
  • Among the top games in the U.S. were Fortnite, Slotomania, Golf Clash, New YAHTZEE with Buddies and Township.
  • In 2019, the top mobile apps in the U.S., by average monthly active users, include the following:

For more information, read App Annie’s 2020 Mobile App Evolution Report online.

U.S. Cloud Gaming Could Grow to $3B in Annual Subscription Revenue

With 30% of U.S. broadband households indicating interest in cloud gaming, the U.S. cloud gaming market could grow to nearly $3 billion in subscription revenue annually, says Parks Associates. According to a new report – Cloud Gaming Demand and Preferences – 74% of U.S. broadband households play video games, including gaming on smart TVs and streaming platforms like Xbox and PlayStation, for at least an hour every week. The number of hours played per week has increased during the coronavirus pandemic with heavy gamers playing more than 20 hours per week.

“There is a renewed interest in offering cloud gaming services that replicate Netflix’s value proposition by allowing consumers to stream games over the internet, across multiple platforms, and without having to download files or use local processing power,” said Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates.

“We estimate, based on consumer interest in these services, the US cloud gaming market stands to generate nearly $3 billion in annual subscription revenue, with the opportunity to generate more revenue via service stacking and add-on sales, provided these offerings are designed and targeted correctly,” Hanich added.

Parks Associates: Hours Spent Playing Games Weekly

Why the MyPanera+ Coffee Subscription Is Working

In March, Panera expanded its popular MyPanera rewards program to offer an unlimited coffee subscription.  At launch, for $8.99 a month plus tax, rewards customers can subscribe to the MyPanera+ coffee subscription. The new subscription program gives subscribers one cup, any size, of drip hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee every two hours during regular bakery hours, including unlimited free refills of the same beverage.

Three months later, Panera launched a #FREECOFFEE4SUMMER campaign on Twitter to boost subscriptions. Anyone who subscribed to the service by July 4 would receive free, unlimited premium hot coffee, hot tea or iced coffee until Labor Day, September 7. This included rapid pick-up at curbside and contactless delivery.

The MyPanera+ unlimited coffee subscription has attracted 800,000 subscribers so far.
The MyPanera+ unlimited coffee subscription has attracted 800,000 subscribers so far.

In a July 27 article for Fast Casual, Cherryh Cansler talked to Panera’s chief brand and concept officer, Eduardo Luz, to see how the program is going. So far, MyPanera+ has attracted 800,000 members. For anyone who subscribed before July 4, they aren’t currently paying any subscription fees, but anyone who subscribed after would be.

Luz told Cansler that Panera had been working on its coffee subscription before COVID-19 hit the U.S.

“Subscription services are table stakes in many other industries, and coffee was a product we saw fitting into that model to create a more convenient and cost-effective option — making it easier than ever for consumers to access, and providing us a recurring revenue stream,” Luz said.

The subscription service has helped the fast casual restaurant retain loyal customers and attract new ones in a socially distant world. During the campaign, Panera asked Twitter followers to vote for free coffee. If they received 500,000 votes by June 22, they’d give free coffee all summer to its subscribers. They received a total of 588,748 votes with 87.4% voting for free coffee. (Who wouldn’t want free coffee or tea?) This campaign created a sense of community, particularly in a time when so many people are feeling disconnected from each other.

To build on that success, Panera has launched a refer-a-friend program called the Fellowship of Unlimited Coffee. Each coffee subscriber who signs up five or more people gets free premium coffee through the end of October. These programs, along with the MyPanera loyalty program, provide lifetime value that is estimated to be five times higher than non-loyalty program members. Customers get free coffee, and Panera gets loyal customers who will appreciate their rewards when restaurant service returns to a new normal.

In March 2019, fast food chain Burger King launched the BK Café subscription program for $5 a month. Subscribers received a small cup of premium BK Café coffee daily throughout the month, which equates to about $0.17 per day. That program was operational for less than a year and was quietly shut down.

Read Cansler’s full story, “Panera Exec Reveals the Strategy Behind Free Coffee Subscription,” on

Year-Old Streaming Service Nebula Hits 100K Paying Subscribers

Just a year after launch, video platform Nebula has hit 100,000 paying subscribers, reports Tubefilter. If you haven’t heard of Nebula before, it is a streaming video platform owned and operated by creators. It costs only $3 per month, or $30 per year. Part of the subscription fees cover operating costs, and the other half is split between parent-company Standard and the creators themselves, based on video views. In addition to being supported by subscribers, Nebula is also sponsored by companies like CuriosityStream, Skillshare and Audible.

A sampling of Nebula channels. See the full line-up at

It includes more than 5,000 videos from about 100 creators, some of whom you may also have been on YouTube, and the videos can be watched online or downloaded for later. Among the channels you’ll see on Nebula are Tier Zoo, Curious Elephant, History Buffs, Kat Blaque, Captain Midnight and Terrible Writing Advice. We’re curious already! Read more about Nebula on Tubefilter, visit, or download the app from the App Store or Google Play.

3 SEO Tips to Try Today

Search engine optimization is constantly evolving to keep up with the changing algorithms of Google and other search engines. SEO expert Neil Patel shared his top 10 tips for improving a website’s search engine ranking. Here are three SEO tips you can try today to move your subscription company up the rankings.

  1. Link building remains important, so link to other relevant sources whenever you can. Make sure you are linking to trustworthy sources that add value for your reader though. Don’t link just for the sake of linking.
  2. Remember that search engines are your secondary audience. While it is important to include keywords for search engines, it is far more important that your content is engaging and meaningful to those who actually read it – people. Write for them first. If you’ve done it right, the search engines will find you.
  3. Write a strong meta description which is one of the first things people will see when Google returns a specific page on your website in its search results. Yoast describes a meta description as a snippet of about 155 characters that summarizes what is on a given page of your site. If you use a Word Press site (Subscription Insider does!), add a plugin like Yoast to help guide you in the process.

For more SEO tips like these, visit Patel’s blog post, “The 10 Most Important SEO Tips You Need to Know” on

Search engine optimization (SEO) can help ensure your subscription company's pages rise to the top of Google rankings.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can help ensure your subscription company’s pages rise to the top of Google rankings. Image: Bigstock Photo

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