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Online services I pay for (gabrielweinberg.com)
162 points by niels on May 23, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

I still don't understand the draw of Hulu Plus over something like Netflix or Amazon Prime (with its new video on demand servce). $8 a month to still have TV shows with ads in them? (and I swear they keep adding more advertisements to the shows each time I watch them). They do let you watch earlier seasons of shows, but that seems like Netflix would be a better option for that. So what's the real draw Gabriel has for subscribing?

Netflix is for archived content, while Hulu Plus is for current-season content. I'm happy with the Netflix model and it's all I use. The problem with Hulu Plus is that there is some non-Plus content that you can't view as a Plus member (because of licensing). Also, they don't have _every_ show. Also, they don't have _every_ network (no CBS, for example - or Sci-Fi either, if I recall). Missing plenty of others. Also, they only have the current season of shows - and sometimes not even the whole season. And you still have advertising. A LOT of advertising. I had a free week of Hulu Plus and the first 40 minute show I watched contained seven full commercials. For a service that I would presumably be paying money for (more money than Netflix costs). I canceled Hulu Plus after that first hour and never used it again.

Even at double the price, Netflix would be a ridiculously good deal. My only complaint with them is that they churn through their selection so damn fast. How about they just KEEP South Park and everything else? There's nothing worse than logging in on a lazy Sunday afternoon to find that 20% of your queued content has just vanished, because they only had licenses to stream the content until 5/20/2011.

I use both equally. Hulu is great for current content and it seems more like a TV replacement. But the movies on Hulu suck. Netflix has awesome movies. Its TV series is improving, but it will often get a series months after it airs. Theres definitely a place for both services.

I only pay for Netflix right now because the Plus offering for Hulu just isn't there yet. A ton of the content isn't available on mobile and the buffering can be terrible at times. Also they claim to keep full series of shows for Plus members, but when I tried it out I couldn't find historical seasons for many popular shows that I had wanted to watch and start from the beginning. So that pretty much killed it for me.

wait. the recent episodes are free to watch anyway, and the archived ones didn't worked for you... so for what exactly are you paying?!

Recent episodes are not always free. I was using the free only version until "HuluPlus" episodes started showing up that I wanted to watch. I pay the $8/mo and I watch about 4-5 shows that I have subscribed in my RSS feed. Seems reasonable. I get probably 3-4 episodes per week for $2. Cheap entertainment.

And Netflix doesn't work on Linux.

The ability to watch them on mobile and tv. Hulu is not free on any mobile device or any set-top box, but Hulu Plus is available on those.

$8 a month to still have TV shows with ads in them?

Not only that, but most of the good/popular shows are "web only." So even though you're paying them good money to have the ability to watch on your TV or mobile device, tough luck.

These are the two reasons I didn't renew the Xbox 360 free trial. Why would I pay for ads and not even be able to watch all the shows through my Xbox 360?

It's about specific content, i.e. current TV shows not available via Netflix or Amazon Prime.

I pay $50 a month to my cable company to get TV shows with ads in them.

$8 per month is not bad to fill the gaps in Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Amen! I don't understand the people that have cable and make this argument... it's crazy! For the people that don't have cable, $8 is sure a heck of a lot cheaper than the alternatives!

It works on an iPad while regular Hulu doesn't. (right?)

True, but it seems like a high price to pay simply to watch the latest television shows on your iPad / other iOS devices.

Depends on how much that money is worth to you vs. how much that content is worth to you.

The guy who wrote that article is a millionaire.

And that is relavent how?

I am sure he got that way by not spending money he deemed as frivolous just to spend money.

I am not a millionaire but I spend money on services I deem necessary for me.

The relevance is obvious.

"it seems like a high price"


"The guy who wrote that article is a millionaire"

Hulu also works on TVs.

If I didn't love sports, and if an easy-to-use, unified interface wasn't crucial to my wife's acceptance, I could replace my $150+/mo satellite package with about $40/month of netflix, hulu, itunes and amazon.

you're paying for the immediacy of certain content, instead of having to wait for netflix.

Hulu plus works on the iPad.

I've been asking around among the people I know lately, and I have yet to find someone who will pay for online services. Of course they're all 'regular' people, i.e. not working in the tech field, and with 'modal' incomes, so not always buying the latest gadgets (phones etc).

Of course there are plenty of businesses doing fine selling online services. It's just that it seems to be to an audience that I cannot find off line. Is it a European thing? It it possible to target the (mainstream) B2C market in Europe with online services yet? Anyone with experiences in this field?

Most users don't mind paying for services with their time. eg: watching tv programs with ads in them vs HBO subscription. The cases where you see people paying for services is when the service will provide them with value/convenience/time savings and the users care for the value/convenience and time savings

I could check if my servers are up every hour without subscribing to pingdom. Do I want to do it though? no. It's too painful and time consuming. For most people, it really doesn't matter if their desktop is up or down, their livelihood doesn't depend on it.

I can imagine several reasons why the European situation is different from the US. First of all, many of the "best" services aren't available here for practical (e.g. Amazon Prime; with the exception of some EU countries like Germany) or legal reasons (e.g. anything to do with content distribution apart from the likes of iTunes). Most consumers will pay for content, but in Europe the options are limited and often come restricted to a particular platform (iTunes).

Another reason is payments. Credit cards are a lot less common here and the culture regarding them is quite different from what you see in the US. A lot of the American-centric services require credit cards which means they are simply not an option for many Europeans. That being said, alternative payment options are becoming increasingly mainstream (e.g. iDEAL[0]).

Another big factor is culture and generational differences. For example, a lot of kids here buy stuff through their phones, using paid text messages (e.g. ringtones and games). You have to be careful when using your immediate social environment as a benchmark. I assume that in the US online service consumption is quite different in rural Indiana compared to the situation in California, for example. We're both Dutch and it is part of our culture and Calvinist heritage to not want to seem wasteful by spending money on frivolous crap.

People only want to spend money on something that gives them some kind of tangible benefit (including entertainment). This explains why online shopping is already huge in Europe, because it is the most straight forward deal in terms that non-technical people understand very well: you pay for physical goods. As I mentioned before, our (legal) online media consumption is hindered by a myriad of licensing issues[1]. This explains why normal people don't subscribe to the likes of Hulu here. But the younger generations do tend to spend money on gaming subscriptions and perks (e.g. paid items). Regular people mostly spend money on entertainment, so that is why your relations aren't paying for things like Github. Their employers, or schools, however, are. Services targeting professional users are doing quite well here.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDEAL [1]: And, possibly, by the fact that downloading content "illegal" isn't necessarily illegal in many EU jurisdictions (and otherwise not really prosecuted).

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Dropbox yet - for me, it's certainly the most useful online service I pay for.

A lot of us on hacker news have more than 100GB of data to back up. I use Dropbox all the time but have no need for more than the free account. Dropbox is only for syncing. If I need to back something up it goes to CrashPlan, where I store hundreds of gigs of data, with no ceiling, for the same price as 100GB / year on Dropbox.

I don't trust Dropbox enough to store more than a few gigs of data in it and I have 10GB for free. All it takes is a username and password to get into there, so I only store stuff in there that's convenient to sync between home and work and that isn't particularly sensitive.

So far, I've only had one experience with dropbox, and it was mediocre. Someone('s dad) was trying to share a ~1.5 gig file with up to 50ish people (mostly artists and musicians). The free account used up all its bandwidth and the person had to apologize to everyone and ask that they please wait while they figured out what to do (I assume they were using a free version and needed to upgrade, but that's just a guess. The Dropbox faq doesn't say anything about bandwidth).

So I uploaded it to amazon s3 and configured direct access to the bucket via the web (a very easy procedure though somewhat technical). It cost me less than $5 to get that file to the remaining people, with little worry about service interruption.

See that really isn't the main use case for dropbox, dropbox is more like seemless backup and sync. You have a dropbox folder on your computer you work on stuff in, everything gets uploaded and revisioned while you are saving files and when you change computers everything is there.

You also get pretty good folder sharing with others and a web interface.

Personally though I've stopped paying for dropbox and might consider going back if they implement client side encryption for some users, but til then its waiting for a fast enough good enough replacement or for dropbox to implement it.

See that really isn't the main use case for dropbox

Of course, but the user was clearly taken by surprise.

It's in the terms somewhere, I remember this coming up once before on hacker news when something was being linked directly from dropbox.

Most of the large stuff I have, TV Shows, Movies, Music, Programs are pretty easily replaceable and given I don't do any major amount of graphics or produce much video the main thing that I'm using dropbox for is code which easily fits within the nearly 8 gig limit after all the bonus space on the free account.

I sometimes wonder if they have been to generous, it's one service I would definitely pay for if it had a lower free cap.

I don't think of Dropbox as anything more than a sync service, and I don't have enough data stored on there to worry about going to a pro plan.

For backup I use backblaze, and I have about 100GB backed up across 2 computers (so $10/month) which I'm ok with. That's mainly pictures, music, documents, etc. I don't backup anything that's easily replaceable.

Safari books online is ~$300/year but is worth it weight in gold. Most of the time you just need part of a book and need to look at several books to find the right answer or code snippet. Currently my company pays for it but I'm so used to it now, I would pay if they decide not to.

A lot of schools including my alma mater has this free for students/staff. They also allow alumni if you bought the lifetime alumni pack when you graduated which was $300 and included a bunch of other university services.

I have use the safari books extensively, but their book viewer sucks. I wished it was a much better UI.

I believe that your membership to IEEE gets you access to Safari Online also.

My employer also provides this. I like when i need to fully understand the inner workings of some new thing... which occurs once every 5yrs or so...

for day to day stuff, a web search is much more practical... and you get helpful comments on the page most of the time

FreshBooks, CrashPlan, GitHub, AWS (grudgingly - because I like building/running servers) and NetFlix.

I am more likely to drop 20, 30 or even 100 bucks on some software that I may or may not use daily - it takes a lot more to get me to commit to a subscription service - it has to provide ongoing utility and joy on a daily basis.

I recommend you give Invoice Machine a shot, I like it better than Fresh Books.

I wish NewEgg had a program like Amazon Prime.

Edit: I was just browsing NewEgg and it looks like they have joined with Shoprunner.com to offer 2 day shipping for $79/year.

I definitely don't use NewEgg enough to make that worth it, compared to Amazon.

I'm the opposite. I'm ordering things from Newegg every few weeks and I hardly ever buy from Amazon.

Though for the past year we've had a free Amazon Prime account because my wife is a college professor. With free shipping, we ordered a lot more things than we would've otherwise.

I've been a Prime subscriber for a little over 3 years. I use it for everything. It's really dangerous, combined with the mobile app. For example, my wife and I were talking over lunch the other day that we needed a new weed-whacker for the yard, and three minutes later I'd priced one out and ordered one on my phone for next day delivery.

Spotify. No ads, offline syncing, higher quality audio.

No USA service, either. I would have considered Spotify, but I went with Pandora because of this limitation.

Rdio is the best US alternative to Spotify IMO. Come with a free 7 day trial, which is how I got hooked.

How much does this all cost a month?

I just have Linode and Astraweb :\

I pay for Audible since it's about the only way I can churn through all the books I want to read thanks to long commutes. I opt for a good usenet account instead of Netflix/Hulu simply because the selection/quality isn't good enough yet and, at best, the content is spread between at least two services. Usenet is just easier.

Giganews' Diamond plan is the most expensive internet service I pay for. I've thought about switching, but the VPN service they include is very handy for when I need to access sites that are only available from American IP addresses or if I'm connecting from an untrusted network.

Re: "switching between accounts a pain"

Not sure if most of the switching is between email accounts, but if it is, I've been using the 30 day free trial for MailPlane (http://mailplaneapp.com) and have been pleased with it.

I'm going to pay for it when the trial is over ($24.95).

Try Sparrow. I've been running their trial version as well. It is really good and 10$ for full version.

Agreed. I paid the $10 and I have not looked back. I really like this app.

I heard/read about issues with very large cache directories (with thousands of tiny files).

I have an ssd so the speed isn't a concern for me, but as osx lacks trim support, I am concerned about huge caches.

Have you seen or noticed the cache being overly large?

I do have a weird 'lag' when I get to my e-mail in the morning after being away all night. My system does not sleep, but Sparrow is unresponsive for about 60 seconds. But just then everyday. After that I am fine until the next morning. I am not sure if that relates at all.

I have a lot of e-mail and 'labels' and I seem to do just fine.

TRIM support is coming in Lion (OS X 10.7) but I am sure you know that since you know 10.6 doesn't have it. I still felt compelled to type it though...

Only non server based thing I pay for for is evernote, currently in second year but have fallen out of love with it slightly so will probably be my last.

Pandora. No ads, higher quality audio. I do it because I appreciate what I get from the site, same way I buy the Economist even though I can read its articles online for free.

Rhapsody. No ads, access to tons of stuff, on demand. You have the choice of picking and choosing songs, or just playing on a radio (Pandora style). And I think it's the same price as Pandora's ad-free service (which makes me wonder why people pay for Pandora?)

I pay for Pandora, too.

I can't quantify it but Pandora does a much better job at playing music I enjoy in the context of the previous music it played and I enjoyed. There will be times when it hits streaks of an hour of non-stop amazing music song after song (with only a few that I've heard before).

Other services I've tried are not much better than a genre on shuffle.

Could it be because Pandora actually uses humans to categorize the music?


Pandora One is $36 a year, Rhapsody is $9.99 a month. Big difference there.

Pandora is radio, you have no control over what song is playing aside from being able to switch stations and being able to skip (no scrubbing) a few (5 iirc?) songs a day.

Rhapsody, on the other hand, lets you play any song from their library at any time you want. You can skip, go back, scrub, and play songs/albums/artists/playlists just as if you owned the songs (you can actually even download the songs and drop them on any MP3 player if you get the mobile plan).

MAJOR difference in the service they provide.

Agreed. There is a major difference in the service that is provided. As usual, you get what you pay for.

Pandora is 6 skips an hour ( More for Pandora One I think), and thumb-downing a song eliminates in on that station. I can also say I'm tired of a song, which shelves it on that station for 30 days.

Pandora is 6 skips an hour ( More for Pandora One I think)

If you pay for Pandora, you get six skips per hour per station. Free users get six skips per hour, across all stations.

Spotify if you're not in the US.

Grooveshark. No ads, unlimited skips, listen to any song you want.

I want to like Grooveshark, but the fractured state of their library is an ongoing pain. I like to queue up entire albums, but I usually have to spend a few minutes finding all the songs via search first, then I have to put them in the proper order.

I used to use Jungle Disk until I found out they still bill you for bandwidth costs even if you use your own S3 bucket so you effectively having to pay double for bandwidth costs.

for me jungledisk/dropbox/ubuntuone sounds really dumb.

any hacker worth their salt can just use rsync or something else. and you can somewhat trust your remote host with openSSH.

if you are already going to pay for storage/bandwidth? why settle for a dumb client and doubtful privacy?

dropbox i can understand on the price issue to be more appealing, but if you plan to backup private documents, this is not a good selling point. more so in recent fear mongering campaign against them.

I'm paying the lowest linode with backup and just have a cron job on all my devices (home/work PCs, android, openwrt router) sending rsync diffs there. and as an added bonus i also use that host to host my private git repositories and run mysql slave for an offsite backup for my personal projects data.

...not extremely cheap, but not extremely insecure.

I starting using Dropbox while in college so I could sync all my school work with great ease. Now I have 82.25GB of space (72.9% used) and I mainly use it to backup my iTunes library, pictures, and projects. While rsync would work as an alternative, I just go with Dropbox because it's dead simple to use.

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