Written by Amy Manikowski
At a point in time when the internet has rendered the postal service almost an afterthought, people still crave receiving things delivered to their doorstep. Tapping that desire, Western North Carolina subscription services are thriving.
Subscription services have been around for hundreds of years, but a recent surge in popularity fueled by a “subscription-box” craze has endeavored to make life easier, while building communities and growing businesses in our tech-addicted age.
In 1731 Benjamin Franklin started a subscribers-only library in Philadelphia, and through much of the 20th century, people depended on their magazine and newspaper subscriptions to deliver their news and information.
Remember the BMG Music Service and Columbia House, whose pervasive advertising in the 1980 and 1990s touted “12 Records for 1 Penny”? The music clubs had every teen and pre-teen insisting to their parents there was no fine print even though they included overly complicated deals and membership agreements that slipped in overpriced and unwanted merchandise. By 1994 fifteen percent of all CDs were sold via music clubs, but with the advent of file-sharing at the end of the decade, CD sales gradually tanked; by 2009 BMG Music Service had eased operations, and in 2015 the owners of Columbia House filed for bankruptcy.
While music subscriptions may have moved to iTunes and Spotify, the Book-a-Month Club, which started in 1926, is still going strong. Still using the same model it began with—letting members choose one of five new hardcover books selected by a panel of judges to receive each month for a flat rate—the club has over 100,000 members, mostly millennial women, and has over 399k followers on Instagram. It is credited with helping many new writers gain popularity; among its featured classic books have been Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
The internet has made subscribing to services much easier, allowing businesses to reach a national or international audience through social media and click-through advertising, and allowing customers to easily search for goods and services to meet their needs—or in many cases, to fill needs they didn’t realize they had.
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…