Talking tech since 2003

If there’s one area that AOL knows well, it’s subscriptions. The company built an empire out of free trials and monthly subscription fees for its dial-up Internet service in the ’90s, and that dial-up service is still the largest money maker for the company. AOL has focused primarily on Web content the past few years, but now the company has its eye on subscriptions once again. This time, bundling other products and subscription services and selling them at a discount through a site called Gathr.

Some of the subscriptions currently offered on Gathr.
Some of the subscriptions currently offered on Gathr.

The idea behind Gathr is simple — choose a couple of subscriptions to bundle together at a discounted rate or select a “Pre-Bundled” package. Bundling your own subscriptions allows you to select three different items plus a “bonus” for $15 a month. Some of the already-assembled bundles are a bit pricier, but the value is higher, as well. It’s a neat concept, without question. Unfortunately, Gathr falls short because it’s launching with such a sparse library of subscription providers on deck.

For a service that claims to have “All Your Favorite Brands in One Place,” Gathr doesn’t really offer a whole lot. I personally couldn’t find anything I’ve used recently at all. Aside from okay deals like Redbox rentals and gift cards, the lion’s share of the subscriptions come from magazines or services like Life Lock and Norton AntiVirus, which are the last things in the world I want.

I just finished a subscription to Maxim that lasted two years and I never paid a dime for it — it just started showing up one day, which seems to be the case with a lot of magazines. And Norton? I spend my first half hour with every new Windows machine trying to uninstall the ridiculous anti-virus applications that come bundled. No thanks.

After poking around, my impression of Gathr is that it’s a half-baked product and it shouldn’t have been rolled out to the general public without better partnerships, and more of them. Heck, just getting Netflix, Hulu or Spotify on board would have sweetened the deal a little bit. If I could bundle those three services for $19.99, I would have dropped an Andrew Jackson in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I don’t find subscriptions to Pandora One, Good Housekeeping and a $10 promo code for LivingSocial quite as enticing.

We’ll have to see if Gathr improves with better partners over the next couple of weeks and months. AOL is certainly proud enough of the service to start advertising it on TV in a couple of markets. But unless the offered products and subscriptions get better, I can’t really see Gathr taking off.

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