Subscription Fatigue — Why everybody loses (I)

Cosmin Ene
3 min readMar 5, 2023


Have you ever been interested in reading an article but were immediately hit with a paywall? You’re not alone. I’ve come to notice a significant problem that many publishers seem to overlook — user centricity.

Despite the industry’s claims that their readers are their one true focus, no one ever talks about what consumers are experiencing daily. As someone who consumes articles regularly, I know firsthand that I am willing to pay for an article or content that interests me, but I’m not willing to subscribe on a monthly basis to all the publications I come across — because I already have two news subscriptions.

Recently I bumped into this article in my social media feed, tried to read it and failed. And I’ll admit, the irony of an article about subscriptions being locked behind a paywall was too good to pass up.

The publisher’s view is that paywalls drive subscriptions, but that‘s mostly wishful thinking. As if a single article tied to an unsolicited subscription produces a long-lasting happy customer relationship. (Spoiler: it doesn‘t!)

Let‘s have a look at the real customer journey — but this time through the eyes of the one and only expert that matters: the customers themselves. Shall we?

Let’s consider a scenario where a consumer discovers an article through their social media feed. They click on the link only to hit a paywall, which leads to instant disappointment. The consumer is presented with the option either to subscribe or essentially leave the site. However, the process of subscribing involves filling out a form, providing payment details, and accepting a $1 trial offer, which can result in users forgetting to cancel and being stuck with a subscription they didn’t intend to keep.

This situation repeats itself numerous times throughout the day, causing massive frustration. The publisher loses an opportunity to monetize the user, and future opportunities are lost since 69% of consumers avoid sites with paywalls. The consumer, who was willing to engage with the content, ends up rejecting the offer to subscribe and continues scrolling through their feed.

That’s exactly the opposite of what was intended.

In order to address this problem, let’s take a closer look into the mindset of a reader or potential customer/subscriber.

To be continued…

This is a series of articles that explores where creators and publishers are today — and where the media as we know it needs to go in the short term. I’ll provide solutions and concepts for how to change the status quo at the end of the series.

About Cosmin

Cosmin Ene has a wide spectrum of experience in monetization for content providers. For the last 8+ years he has worked with a broad swathe of publishers — from bloggers to local media to national and international publications — including the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, The Boston Globe, and Der Spiegel. Cosmin also has profound experience generating revenues from contributions for content creators and artists, having worked together with industry luminaries like Nick Knight. Recognizing that people’s digital content consumption habits have fundamentally transformed traditional business models, he advises publishers and content providers on how best to embrace user-centricity in order to remain profitable and to succeed in the 21st century.



Cosmin Ene

Founder/CEO Supertab. All about giving users choice and making it easy for them to buy content.