Online Subscription Money Well Spent
December 23, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

What do you pay for online that you really feel is money well spent?

Your answers can be as broad as you want them, but I'm particularly interested in freemium-model online services (Dropbox, Evernote, Gyazo) where the premium service delivers an appreciated improvement to the free service. If the service is useful on all OSes and Mobile devices, that's a big plus.

This is a bit of a followup to this post of a few years ago, but the world has changed a lot in this area since that post.
posted by mcstayinskool to Technology (63 answers total) 152 users marked this as a favorite
Amazon Prime. Totally worth it.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:03 AM on December 23, 2011 [28 favorites]

Amazon Prime has made my life much, much easier (albeit somewhat more morally conflicted.)

My Netflix stream-only subscription gets a lot of use, especially after getting a PS3.

The iOS New York Times Crossword puzzle app (which requires a subscription) is great.
posted by griphus at 9:04 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Netflix Instant provides the most value for me. It's now available on almost everything.

Least value: Hulu Plus.

Dropbox never seemed worth it to pay, but I am not storing super large things, just documents. It is amazingly great though so if I had higher requirements I would definitely pay.

I had Amazon Prime for awhile and found it very good, but I didn't buy enough things to justify it.

In the vein of Netflix, I want to try Audible because I think you can stream audiobooks for a flat monthly fee and that's similar in use for me. I don't relisten to many audiobooks.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:05 AM on December 23, 2011

posted by desjardins at 9:07 AM on December 23, 2011 [9 favorites]

I love the paid subscription for Pandora. No more listening to advertisements about feminine hygiene products while hosting a dinner party!
posted by joan_holloway at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

Amazon Prime, free shipping on a 42 lb bag of kitty litter was awesome!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:12 AM on December 23, 2011

Amazon Prime, Spotify.
posted by uncannyslacks at 9:13 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lastpass. Having my passwords accessible on my Android phone is very much worth the $12 (and there's other positives that I haven't dug into).
posted by RyanAdams at 9:16 AM on December 23, 2011

Best answer: $5 for Metafilter - 100% worth it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:19 AM on December 23, 2011 [112 favorites]

My own server and a decent net connection. With that I can replace most of the $x/month services.
posted by Leon at 9:19 AM on December 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Amazon Prime, Pandora, Netflix Streaming, and Instapaper are the four where I get crazy amounts of consumer surplus.
posted by Gori Girl at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I enjoy Hulu Plus. I don't have cable access and for a few bucks a month I can keep current with the network TV that I watch, plus a pretty sizable chunk of the criterion collection. I used to really love eMusic, since their music discovery engine was (and still is) an awesome way to get high quality, DRM free copies of a huge database of music without putting up with the hassle of pirating. However, recently, their pricing has gotten worse, and if you have a smart phone I would say it makes more economic sense to get Spotify plus.
posted by codacorolla at 9:21 AM on December 23, 2011

nthing Netflix. Best $8/month I spend.
posted by cgg at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Netflix. I get both instant and the DVDs. We use the PS3 for streaming to our projector, but I sometimes watch TV shows on my phone. I want an iPad and if I had one, I would watch more things.

The only thing keeping me from Amazon Prime is there is no PS3 app.

Agreed that Hulu Plus is a crappy value and service. We still have it but will likely cancel it. You are only paying for access to additional episodes beyond the five rotating episodes of a given show, but many shows don't HAVE any episodes past that, while others are free anyway. You still have to see ads. Steaming quality is often poor; 1080p isn't even offered (at least not for the shows we watch, which are new) and unlike Netflix, which plays smoothly at near blu-ray quality, it constantly errors and stalls and blurs out. Hulu Plus is seriously a huge piece of crap right now, to the extent that we make a face and just don't watch stuff when the suggestion comes up, even though we're paying for it. Half the time errors tell us we simply can't watch things anyway.

The highest subscription level of Spotify is worth it for streaming in the car from my phone, but I have to be sure to make things playable offline anyway since California is hilly and cell connections go in and out. When I visit Houston (like now) which is much flatter, I have no streaming issues. I think you still have to pay for the available offline version anyway.

Kindle ebooks. It's great to be able to carry so many books, and also read anywhere in any position without dropping a book on my face. It's not that hard to break the drm if that's bothersome. They are usually cheaper, often MUCH cheaper, than the physical books.

Whether Evernote is worthwhile depends on the person. I paid for a year and mostly didn't use enough to make it worthwhile. I paid for the ability to share with another person who could edit the notes in order to collaborate on a project, but it was stupid to have to pay for that anyway and we mostly worked with text, so we switched to SimpleNote for free. I also found EN's apps to be very clunky, personally, and SN has fast, lightweight apps; this was a big reason I didn't use EN more, because it was a hassle to add anything. But if you need a lot of bandwidth and need to store non-text, it's probably worth it.

I just signed up for Audible because if you agree to a year right now, you get a $100 credit that can be applies to Kindles, among other things, and I wanted to replace my Kindle Keyboard with a Touch. Audible is very worthwhile to audiobook lovers generally, however if you don't listen to them, or can obtain them from the library, the credits build up and you'll spend them on things you aren't enthusiastic about; this was such with two of my friends, and since I can find practically any audiobook in the LA area library systems for free (physical or OverDrive), I held off until the deal right now. Something to consider.
posted by Nattie at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2011

Conqu (task sync)
financial times
posted by chasles at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2011 - For online bookmarking. Costs $9.87 one time payment as of today.

PlayOn - For streaming lots of various web video onto the TV via the Xbox 360. $5/month, or $20/year, or $50 forever.
posted by General Tonic at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Flickr, Easynews, MLKSHK. Also iBird PRO is so much better than iBird lite.
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by bq at 9:33 AM on December 23, 2011

Amazon Prime,, and
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:33 AM on December 23, 2011

I like my Amazon Prime, but I love, love, love, love my premium Spotify. Hulu Plus and Netflix are alright, but I'm pretty sure I could live without them. I could also probably live without my NYT crossword subscription, though I should note that I have sort of a fast-and-binge pattern with crosswords, and I'm in fast mode, currently. My Audible account is the least necessary and valuable of my online services. I like it, but it's definitely an indulgence, and if I had to cut one of these things, it'd be Audible for sure.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:33 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Reddit Gold
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:35 AM on December 23, 2011

Flickr, Netflix, MLKSHK, Pandora, Instapaper, and paying for my own blog/site domains & hosting rather than using a free service.
posted by mattbucher at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2011

Easynews, Amazon Prime, Spotify.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:41 AM on December 23, 2011

- NYT! Totally worth it and really (if I may get off on a tangent), in an ideal universe, it should have a charitable trust fund like The Guardian does.

- Rdio; similar to Spotify, but I like Rdio's music discovery/social functions better.

- I can quite see myself paying for Netflix instant (if I had a bit more disposable time).
posted by justlooking at 9:41 AM on December 23, 2011

I pay for Faxaway, Kall8, and Newspaper Archive -- my circles tend to involve old forms of media, like fax, newspapers, and telephone conversations, so the internet connectivity makes my life much easier.

Netflix streaming, of course; we have a subscription to IMDB's premium service, but I don't know what my wife does with it.

I may have to upgrade to the paid version of Evernote eventually, too; I get a lot of good use out of it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:45 AM on December 23, 2011

I really like my Virtual Private Server. For $20/month I get a private dropbox, flickr, spam mail address, web hosting, private browser sync, calendar/todolist, irssi chat system, postrgres database, offsite backup and firewall circumventer

There is upfront investment, but the data is mine forever, and it looks good on the resume. I don't use Amazon EC2, but they do have a kinda freemium model.
posted by pwnguin at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Lord of the Rings Online.

It's set up as a freemium service, but I'm on a subscription plan. For $100/year, it's definitely more cost effective than any other entertainment option I have.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:50 AM on December 23, 2011

I pay for Netflix and we haven't had cable since. I also pay for the MLB and NBA streaming subscriptions, which makes it easier to not have cable.

I also pay for Dropbox. I use it for everything now and have just about everything stored there.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2011

Backblaze, indisputably. Paid its way the first time it got me out of a hole and has done so a couple of times since.
posted by oliverburkeman at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2011

Great ideas here. "Favoriting" this thread for digging through hidden gems.

Lifehacker did a similar post based on a blog post by another guy. I found good apps going through the linked post as well as entries in Lifehacker's comments section. Here is the link
posted by theobserver at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2011

Filesonic. For the... culture.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2011

Amazon Prime,, and

I used to love Cooks Illustrated, but since they started offering their Editors choice Cookbook upgrade, I've been feeling cheated. Its an expensive subscription to begin with and it seems like half of my search results, and of course the most interesting results, are now not included. Because I cannot turn those results off, I feel pressured every time I use it.
posted by rtimmel at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

posted by Sternmeyer at 10:08 AM on December 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Cloud backup. Crashplan saved my mom's business recently.
posted by scose at 10:16 AM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Crashplan for automatic offsite backup of all our digital photos and other irreplaceable digital media.

iTunes Match, so we can have access to our entire music collection without spending an extra $100/iPhone for more storage.

Linode webhosting for all our blogs and stuff.

We have Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

I've been using HuluPlus a lot because it is required to view Hulu on a device (like our iPad or Roku). It isn't too expensive, but with the ads, and the number of shows that aren't available on a device, it doesn't seem like a good value.

We got amazon prime for the free shipping. We don't buy that much stuff, but it is still nice to have. The video streaming is a bonus.

I'm not feeling that great about Netflix right now we don't seem to be using it much.

Taken together, there seems to be a lot of overlap between what is avaialble on HuluPlus, Netflix and Amazon Prime.
posted by Good Brain at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2011

I love wunderlist - its free, but I'd happily pay for a pro/subscription version, Skype (fiancee is India, Ahem)... yeah netflix, itunes, then downhill from there.
posted by specialk420 at 10:35 AM on December 23, 2011

There's a reason why online porn is largely supplanting magazines and video tapes. (Or so I've heard.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2011


a subscription to online coverage of the Tour de France (via NBC) was really enjoyed by my boyfriend.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2011

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pinboard, Mad Mimi (for e-newsletters), MLB.TV, NearlyFreeSpeech.NET (for hosting), Square (so people can pay me back for lunch—the amount taken out of each payment is cents on the dollar).

I'm also considering splashing out for Backupify on my domain, though I need to read through the TOS a bit more carefully before I commit.
posted by limeonaire at 11:06 AM on December 23, 2011

My brother gladly shells out money every year for MLB streaming so that he can watch his beloved Cubs in all of their tragic glory.
posted by jquinby at 11:08 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Spotify. I probably don't use Spotify enough to justify paying for it, but then I take a long drive somewhere and am reminded of why it's so great.

I use the free versions of Dropbox, Evernote, and Instapaper, and feel like I'm stealing.

I love doing the New York Times crossword puzzle on my iPhone and just happily re-upped the $17 for a year's worth of puzzles.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2011

Kind of specialized, but I pay for access to the Google Translate v2 API, which recently switched over from open access to a pay-per-volume model. It allows my translation software to talk to Google's machine translation database and greatly speeds up my workflow. Costs me about $15/mo based on volume, and probably results productivity increases equal to around $500-1000 a month.
posted by drlith at 12:27 PM on December 23, 2011

NNTP or newsgroups access - kind of like a raw, secure, and unfiltered feed of the Internet. Only 10 dollars a month through easynews, which provides a decent web interface. I bought it 8 years ago and have never let it lapse.
posted by grizzly at 12:37 PM on December 23, 2011

A million times Pandora premium account. All day at work, every day. All the other "awesome" music services are either fake (scrape illegal content via YT, etc) or Napster-esque services where you to pay for music without owning it.

Pandora really finds music you like, and their catalog blows away anything else out there. I've learned so many amazing, obscure artists.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:48 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to love Cooks Illustrated, but since they started offering their Editors choice Cookbook upgrade, I've been feeling cheated. Its an expensive subscription to begin with and it seems like half of my search results, and of course the most interesting results, are now not included. Because I cannot turn those results off, I feel pressured every time I use it.

You can turn those results off. Type something into the search box (I typed in "cookies") and when your search results come up there is a bar at the left for "Refine Results". Directly underneath the words "Editors' Choice Cookbook Collection" is a small link that says "Hide Editors' choice" which will, in fact, turn those results off.

That being said, I pay #34.95 a year for the combo of the CI and Editors' choice, and it's completely worth it, because it gives me access to all their content - back content, cookbook content, test kitchen, you name it. I also have the iPhone app that gives me a lot of the same content on my phone ... the product reviews are especially helpful on the phone.
posted by anastasiav at 1:10 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dropbox. Last year at this time, I spilled tea on my netbook, rendering it useless. My data and music and pictures? All safe and sound.

Evernote. I'm at work, and I think, "gee, I should remember to pick up rice crackers at the supermarket." I toss a new little note in Evernote. 6 hours later, I pull up my note (and probably last week's that I forgot to delete) and I leave a happy camper. Alternately, I'm at home and want to leave myself a note for work on Monday and don't want to go anywhere near email - Evernote to the rescue. With Skitch support, I can make little diagrams too.

Netflix streaming. DVDs arrive broken, scratched, or get lost. Netflix is on my phone and my laptop.

I used to pay for rdio, but unsubscribed after I found I wasn't using it much. If I go back to streaming music, it would be to rdio.
posted by metarkest at 1:39 PM on December 23, 2011

Pandora One has been worth it. And personally, I have found a subscription to Yoga Today to be worth it for the streaming classes as well as the small price break on video downloads.
posted by mimo at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2011

Netflix. But be careful about just taking people's recommendations. It's all about how you use the services. What works for one person, may not work for another. I'll go into a bit of detail, to illustrate. Take Amazon Prime. I've been shopping Amazon since 1999. I spend thousands every year. This year alone, I spent over $2,700. But I don't see myself going for Amazon Prime. Why? Shipping only applies to items sold by Amazon, not any of the merchant stores that are featured on Amazon. For some reason, I find myself mostly buying from merchants, sometimes because Amazon doesn't carry the item, sometimes, because even with paying for shipping the merchant is still cheaper. I don't care about the streaming video, because my taste in film makes it highly unlikely that they'll have anything I'll have interest in. And for Amazon items, with a bit of planning - and they make that easy with the various lists you can keep on Amazon - you can get above the $25 free shipping barrier. And in my experience, they ship pretty fast anyhow 2-3 days - once the items are in stock. In fact, I've had complimentary Amazon Prime for a month after I bought the Kindle, and used it a few times - I didn't notice any difference in speed. And keep in mind, if the items are not in stock, you'll still have to wait, so the fast shipping is a bit of a moot point. And I don't like to feel any pressure to buy "ooh, I got Prime, I gotta use it". So for me, the $79 is totally not worth it. For others, it may be highly desirable. You have to examine your own situation.

I'm sure the same applies to all of this. Including netflix. I like Netflix because I watch a lot of foreign, old, or niche films. So for me, redbox or amazon is not really of any interest, on account of the selection. But for someone else, redbox may be far more desirable than Netflix.
posted by VikingSword at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unfuddle is awesome for source control and bug and project tracking for small projects. (I know that's kind of specific, but everyone else has already mentioned most of the big ones.)

Also love ReadItLater paid version.
posted by instamatic at 3:14 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amazon Prime, the one-time Pinboard payment, and the one-time MetaFilter payment. I'm really thinking about Netflix, though.
posted by jwmollman at 3:46 PM on December 23, 2011

Runkeeper Elite if you're into running/cycling/swimming/etc. - it's around $20/year and gives you some really nice progress/trend analyses over and above the core (free) service.

Seconding Linode for VPS services!
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 3:59 PM on December 23, 2011

Premium usenet. I'm very happy with astraweb.
posted by goo at 4:02 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Amazon Prime. Netflix Instant. Hulu Plus. Spotify premium. Flickr.
posted by loriginedumonde at 5:17 PM on December 23, 2011

If you use torrents at all (legally or otherwise), a seedbox host like is amazing. My ISP throttles Bittorrent, so the ability to send torrents to an FTP server and download them (unthrottled) from that is pretty neat. I also don't have to micromanage bandwidth when trying to seed things and browse simultaneously. That many seedboxes are hosted in countries with lax copyright enforcement may be of interest to more unscrupulous types.
posted by almostmanda at 6:39 PM on December 23, 2011 [7 favorites]
posted by tamitang at 9:06 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've bought extra space on Google to store mp3s and just whatever is laying around here; I think Google is going to be around. I had the seven or ten gig they give free, bought another 80gig for $20 a year, going to drop that down to 60gig this year, knock off another five bucks. I know that some people have had trouble with google losing mp3s or whatever but it's been flawless for me, worth the bread.

I've given LastPass money though I don't think you need to, I just love the product so and want to support them, same with XMarks, which integrates so nicely with LastPass; they're owned by the same outfit now, I gave them money for each product, as it's worth it to me to support freeware, I just love the whole thing. I've given money to AdBlock and NoScript and TabsMixPlus for that same reason, maybe a few others also, not sure. Every one of the items in this paragraph get used heavily every day that I'm near a puter, my experience online about seventeen thousand times more pleasant due to what they've given me.

I gave This American Life a few bucks yesterday; all that they've given me all these years, I'd have to give them an awful lot to square it. Glass said he's going to try to do the whole fundraiser online from people showing up to stream a show, which is what I did.

Same thing with wikipedia—they asked, I truly do use them every day, often many times, threw a few bucks that way.

I have a Clear hotspot that I got on a huge discount they ran for a few days last December, cost me $20 for the hotspot itself but also included a hugely discounted $25 monthly fee for as long as I own the hotspot. It's a steal. Internet anywhere I go, for the most part. I have very lo-tech cell phone, absolutely cannot tether but with the hotspot I don't need to do so.

I have NetFlix but not the streaming, they almost never stream movies I'm interested in. So I'm lo-fi on this part, DVDs shipped to my condo here, but that's okay by me, and the price is minimal and worth it.

MetaFilter obviously, great bang for the buck, for the great answers on the green it'd be worth it, but don't get any ideas plz Mathowie, forget I ever said that.

I'd do Amazon prime if I figured they'd stream any more movies I'd be interested in, pretty sure it'd be about the same as netflix. And as was noted upthread, I usually get free shipping from them anyway, there is always something else that I can purchase that I will use, not just some impulse buy, and of course there are all those sites devoted to telling us what to buy if we're fourteen cents short of $25, go to lawn/garden part of the site and by a side-armed long-furred south-sided elliptically balanced rimforator for your lawnmower, costs $0.16 and now you're shipping free...

I know I'm missing something, it's late I'm tired. Tomorrow another day.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:50 AM on December 24, 2011

Netflix (I am in Canada so they only have the streaming version) and Dropbox. Dropbox seemed steep at first glance, but I had a lot of media files I teach with and wanted them backed up properly. Turns out that a month after I paid for the extra space, my hard drive died and I lost everything. Thank g-d I had it all backed up in Dropbox! I look at my annual dropbox fee like insurance. You pay those premiums every month and grumble a little, but when you need it, you are so glad you did!
posted by JoannaC at 8:16 AM on December 24, 2011

Netflix (in Canada) with UnBlock-Us.

Heck - Netflix is so nice, I actually pay for 2 subscriptions... (Because they do have a limit on how many devices can be registered...)

Shortly looking for premium/private usenet...
posted by jkaczor at 5:20 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Remember the Milk. There are lots of to-do list apps/managers out there but this one takes the cake as far as I'm concerned. $25/year for unlimited phone use is money well spent for me.
posted by aheckler at 2:28 AM on December 25, 2011

MLB Gameday audio.... you can stream any game's radio broadcast (no blackouts) for $20/season.
posted by starman at 5:54 AM on December 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pandora One has definitely been worth it. No advertisements all day and I can listen to the music I choose.
posted by sybarite09 at 7:05 AM on December 27, 2011

Zune Pass (but I also have a Zune player). I suppose now that there's Spotify it's very similar, but it's nice to be able to check out an artist's entire oeuvre on a whim without paying a dollar a song.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:00 AM on December 28, 2011

Freeagent, UK-based online accounting system. Pricey but fast, simple and powerful, and worth it for its VAT handling alone, which is a joy.
posted by Hogshead at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2012

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