Transactional model to rethink our digital behaviour

My small "what if..." exercise inspired by the deficiency of the monetization models.

I’ve heard multiple times about the deficiency of the subscription model. But let’s be honest: subscription model was a tool to increase the price of the software and services from 10$ to $100+, and some of them use the weakness of human memory to forget they are paying for it.

I don’t worry about the business, because products with real value will always find a way to monetize it. The rising of alternative monetization models like “life-time” access and others got me thinking, how they might benefit the user.

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One of the alternative models is a remix of the old one — transactional model. Basically, it works like this:

when you need value = you pay

While it sounds obvious, it’s actually might be very different from product to product. You can see how games use “virtual coins”, and it’s working quite successful when paired with ethical confirmation and parental control.

But what if this model would also benefit the mental health of users, with regular software. Instead of subscriptions that take space in our minds to remember, this model would slow us down before unconscious consuming.

I’ve tried to explore this approach's almost-impossible extremums to see where it might find a practical meaning.

Content Apps


Transaction models can help us slow down from getting unnecessary anxiety. Of course, our brains trick us, that “new information would help us survive in the world”, but the fact that “hot news” sites know this weakness doesn’t mean we can’t block it. By presenting a price for checking this news, our brain would have to pay for the curiosity and deal with the loss of the money, which is psychologically as painful as staying uninformed. Balance might be restored.


We all are so familiar with “Pull-to-Refresh” gesture that half of the app industry grows on this pattern, and its absence makes us uncomfortable, and we doubt the application’s quality. What if we could put a price tag on this gesture to remove our auto-intent to check mail several times per 5 seconds.


Ok, if we’re stretching this idea so far, let’s try unexpected apps too. Weather is also a “content” app, but it’s probably reasonable to look at it once or twice per day. Maybe it could help us be more durable and get us into “prepared for anything” way of thinking if we could only see the weather once. Also, open the window and stretch your head out, maybe it’s more accurate than you think.

Music App

Subscription services allow us to listen to everything, but are you having radically more joy, than collecting your own library 10 years ago? Maybe the investment and careful selection made our music more enjoyable, and you actually listened to the songs from the start to the very end? It might happen that even unlimited services should be a bit “limited” and the price commitment would go directly to the artists, who deserve it.


I also noticed that some of us had a broken relationship with YouTube. Wonderful service, amazing recommendation, but Watch Later playlists grow uncontrollably (even I press that damn button totally consciously). Maybe the transactional model would help us digest our videos slower, watch the videos to the end, and skip to the “up next” only if we’re absolutely want to.


Let’s end the “content” section with the Browser. We underestimate it’s power, while average internet users visit dozens of sites a day. Maybe we could slow the digestion and be more mindful about the site’s diversity, and we would visit only essential sites. Also, the bookmarking problem is present as well. Maybe we could connect bookmarking to commitment, which would help us actually use our bookmarks instead of leaving them rotting in our browser for years.

Commitment Apps


This may sound counterintuitive, but more to-dos don’t mean we are actually productive. The transactional model can help us think twice what goal are we pursuing and select to-dos accordingly. Maybe it could force you to think again about mental health, before adding another online course there? We tend to overestimate our ability to resolve the whole list. This mistake in estimation can counterproductively harm our productivity and your mental health.


This might be a strange example, especially if we’re fighting the consumption and promoting creativity. But maybe the price for a colourful photo would help us prepare before snap instead of firing 12 shots and leaving them in our iCloud forever (which is always full).


Shopping has become a meditation, stress-relieving activity in 2020. Of course, it helps someone, but rarely a person who spends “only 1%” of their salary on a shiny thing. Somehow it gets to 40% at the end of the month. Maybe the additional tax would help us give one more step of thinking before we spend our money. And this tax shouldn’t necessarily go to someone else. It might go to your locked deposit bank account, that opens in 5 years, which benefits you, even if you spend it on a new shiny tote.

Please consider this as a mind-experiment I enjoyed working on this weekend. It’s also worth to explore product economics and see how these changes might work simultaneously or apart with the subscription model.

Criticize my approach, challenge my examples and let me know where I’m wrong. I would love to have a productive conversation in the comments sections.

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