VRM Challenge: Let’s Fix Subscription Bin from Customer Side

From IIW

Session Topic: VRM Challenge: Let’s Fix Subscription Bin from Customer Side

Tuesday 2F

Convener: Doc Searls

Notes-taker(s): Augustin Bralley

Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered:

technology discussed/ideas considered: VRM, CRM, subscriptions, FOSS,

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:


SMTP, POP, IMAP - free, open: replaced proprietary systems

There should be something like this for subscriptions

It can only be solved from the customer-side

Today: the full burden of providing a subscription is on the publisher-side

Some middleman options (Apple), but we shouldn’t need to rely on them.

Pain point: NY Times. Old system, authentication hassles, ordering page (lots of form fields), bait and switch

Better solutions: when I’m at my apartment in NY, deliver me the paper, charge me.

Zuora.com -> interested in VRM on the sale side.

Related: How can VRM help CRM?


1) New business that does nothing but subscriptions: gets large user base, goes to publishers and saves them the trouble of managing subscriptions themselves.

2) Open system, no intermediary. Ala email.

Google, instead of scraping for Google News, they could provide a publishing platform

Subscriptions are like futures contracts. Email is not that.

Let’s QA the sell side.

Is all we can do is get better behavior from sellers?

Can we do with subscriptions what we did with email?

Email is a bad metaphor, because it didn’t succeed, it’s still broken.

Publishers don’t want to give up the direct relationships with their customers.

Subscriptions for publishers are horrible, they hate them, don’t know what to do with them.

Intermediaries are inadequate.

What can we do on the subscriber side, so that they are standardized, easier?

Getting new subscribers is difficult.

Are you talking about an aggregator?

You should never tell people how they should give you money, ie flexible terms.

Digital news stand, dashboard of subscriptions

Subscriptions have two parts: login and payment flow.

Can we standardize this somehow?

Protocol for matching VRM and CRM for subscription intent and payment processing?

Can sellers match the infinite intention possibilities?

No, we don’t want sellers to each have their very own way of trapping you in, selling to you.

Protocols are agreements about how we’re going to get along. Standardize.

Leave room for the heuristics on both sides.

Are there businesses that are confusopolies? Mobile carries, e.g.

If we bring more tools, capabilities, protocols to the user side...

Search and Invite model

How many people are there out there like this (anonymous)?

Extend an invitation to this person, with perhaps some constraints

Where does the protocol side end, and where does the business side begin?

The problems of publishers are pretty common.

Standardize the basics, variability on top.

Are we just going after the bait and switch model?

There are tremendous benefits to not playing games (coupons, loyalty programs, etc)

e.g. Trader Joes, Walmart

If you start with the complicated version, you’re going to get a complicated solution.

Let’s start with the straightforward relationship with customers.

Related to the challenges of enterprise software. Successful companies are the middleware companies that are helping disparate systems connect.

What we’re talking about is the bus layer between consumers and businesses.

You feed us this stuff, and we’ll figure out how to route it

Information Logistics Platform

Middleware for People

Big premise of Kynetx, SnapLogic

CRM is about optimizing internal processes.

Not Customer Relationship Management, Customer Records Management

Once the middleware exists, companies will embrace it.

Maybe we should start with domain names, web hosting.

We want buyers to be better subscribers, give them more choices.

Sellers will find that cost of customer retention management will go down.

Not so much a technology as a business model issue.

Need to get a large user base, before sellers will pay attention.

Getting buyers preferences into sellers systems a challenge.

Helping buyers buy instead of just sellers sell.


APIs are were SGML was.