Should we charge readers who aren’t reading?

By Grzegorz Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


Netflix started to ask hundreds of thousands of users who hadn’t watched anything in the past year whether they wished to keep the subscription.

If they don’t confirm, the company announced recently, their subscriptions will be automatically cancelled.

At the end of March, Netflix had 183 million subscribers across the world. According to Eddy Wu, director of product innovation, the inactive accounts represent less than half of 1% of the company’s customer base, so less than 900,000 customers. 

“I wonder if other subscription businesses will be brave enough — and confident enough in the value of their products — to follow suit,” commented Robbie Kellman Baxter, a membership expert and an author of The Forever Transaction, in an interview with INMA.

Earlier in May, Baxter spoke at the INMA Vitual World Congress and urged publishers to look beyond short-term results to assure long-term customers.

“Netflix has always prioritised ‘cancel anytime’ and making it easy for members to cancel,” she said. “This approach goes one step further in truly ensuring that people only pay if they get value. Talk about ‘easy to cancel!’”

As Netflix considers risk to be small, what is the benefit here? “The goodwill [and PR] among both subscribers and employees will be high,” she answered. “After all, it’s hard to feel good about money you’re earning from people who aren’t getting value from your products and services.” 

Netflix makes it easy to cancel, but it also makes it easy to come back. Users who cancel their subscription and then re-start within 10 months keep their profiles, viewing preferences, and account details. 

What’s your opinion and practice? Should publishers make it easy to cancel? Do you? E-mail me at: 

Banner image courtesy of Raunak Jha from Unsplash/Financial Times.

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