Facing the paywall and breaking free from subscriptions

By Ted Aldwin Ong

September 1, 2022

What I like about the first day of the month is the possibility of free reading. It’s enjoyable to read fresh takes on philosophy by young scholars on Nietzsche or some interesting feature articles about places, travel, food, art, and the media.

Many online sites have rich research write-ups related to new findings on innovations, leadership, and management practices or nearly all issues that communities face somewhere far-flung with climate change. Add to that, the state of the media in the period of mis-dis-info.

During the pandemic lockdown, reading was all there was in between cleaning, cooking, gardening, biking, and beer. On top of that were free online courses like Green Economy, trying a hand at a 30-day yoga on YouTube but failed, some Netflix at night, and then sleeping.

The first day of the month is something to look forward – it’s the renewal of free reading from news websites abroad and other websites that carry informative specialized themes but which entails expensive subscription fees. Generally, these sites offer three free reading materials for a month. If you’re too fast at reading articles with interrelated topics of your liking, then the first day of the month will be the only day you’ll have free reading. Once you’ve consumed your free volumes, then you wait for the next 30 days because you’ll face the paywall from this point forward.

Facing the paywall in the middle of a “reading intercourse” – imagine you’re now at the third or fourth paragraph, with the right momentum, and, well, on track to a bursting climax – then the paywall pops up. Irritatingly, anti-climactic.

It jolts you to click the subscribe button or else you run upstairs, in my case, to instruct your daughter or everybody in the house to register their email so that you’ll get to have free access to the articles that you intend to read. I’ve learned that this is a good way to extend your irritability on them. Not all members of your family find the pleasure of free reading offered by Harvard Business School or The Economist, for instance. It irritates them because these sites are not their preference and you’re disturbing them. Lol….

But you’ll be happier with the additional three sets of free material making your monthly reading to a total of 12. Without that, clicking the paywall gives you the ability to proceed with reading considering the mostly inviting promo of unlimited access for a monthly subscription fee, emphasizing that your subscription can be canceled anytime you want.

Clicking the subscription button gives you instantaneous pleasure similar to winning a thing or two. You’ll get to finish what you’re reading and you can copy-paste the articles on your notes for future reference. One of the news websites that I subscribed in at the height of the pandemic was so rich with informative material, I felt that I got so educated – big time. However, the moment I decided to discontinue my subscription after a year, I have to swallow a Valsartan tablet. It took me more than a year to finally break free.

The cancellation thing brought so much bullshit. The US-based website required me to call a toll-free number for Asian Region where the Philippines is located, but only to find out that the number is dysfunctional. Then you try the email, but it’s AI-managed and you’re exchanging with the bot, who, again, redirects you to call the toll-free number instead. Garbage!

Canceling your subscription will test your patience. You’ll realize that a simple cancellation has in fact many layers of the process to discourage you or deny your attempt at cancellation. Perhaps this is one best example of “cancel culture” – you’re being canceled from canceling your subscription. Brilliant!

So, you watch the monthly charge automatically reflect on your credit card. I learned later from additional readings that there were States in the US and also in Europe that have regulatory policies to ensure that digital subscribers can cancel their subscriptions with convenience. Now we know the context of why such a policy is needed. Plenty was exasperated of the technology that result to a denial to cancel subscriptions.

A journalist on YouTube mentored me on the process of canceling my subscription using an address declaration that I reside in California with a telephone number. This is the only way that the cancellation form will be opened. A California address is the key, he instructed, because it’s the only state with regulations regarding the cancellation of subscriptions online.

Most countries and States in the US have yet to follow this model. But for the time-being current subscribers who intend to cancel their subscriptions are tied in with monthly subscription fees, because some news and media websites are genius enough – integrating an avoidance system through technology that denies subscribers to cancel. In short, profiteering through a piggy bank method.

If you have suffered the same fate, try to check if being a digital resident of California will clear your credit card with auto charges.