At the beginning of the pandemic, I was very reluctant to pay for content. I was always trying to manage my reading within the miserly 3 free articles that publications allowed. The problem was made worse by the fact that the marketing teams of these publications promoted their articles on Facebook and I’m a sucker for clickbait. (Plus I was spending a lot of time on Facebook enviously eyeing other people’s sourdough while on a keto diet.)

Why pay for free apps?

Paying for apps – my middle class soul quailed at the thought. Surely the free version was good enough? But it wasn’t. I increasingly started feeling like Oliver Twist, pleading “Please can I have some more…”. I was hungry for more meeting time, more storage, more magazines, more photos, more workout routines, more tools.
It wasn’t just me. On Whatsapp groups there were pleas for ‘gift articles” from publications like The Ken and Morning Context as well as WSJ and NYT, and paid Zoom accounts for birthday parties.

Breaking the paywall hesitation:

I succumbed to a paid NYT subscription – just to keep on top of the COVID situation, you know. And a Morning Context one. Then Magzter to read Forbes articles I was quoted in. A running app and exercise app were paid for. Netflix and Amazon Prime were joined by Disney+.
It was liberating. Once I overcame the taboo of paying for apps for ‘personal’ usage, my digital experience became far more enjoyable. And friction free.
The cost of all this digital bling was less than what I used to spend in a month on eating out. And they contributed in a much better way to my well-being.

Are apps the new sugar?

I started ’splurging’ on productivity tools too. So much easier to get documents signed with Docusign! And set up meetings with Calendly. The form-filling and get signature feature of Adobe saves me a ton of printing and scanning. Paid Canva helps with the kids homework. The list goes on.
Agreed that it is a bit addictive. There’s a cycle of renewal and upgrades.
I realised that my previous experience as a perennial window-shopper of digital swag was for two reasons:
1. I had a lifetime of experience in kitting out my physical existence – but almost none in decking up my digital world.
2. I was a child of scarcity. Growing up, everything was scarce, so there’s a natural aversion to spending. I have to consciously cultivate an abundance mindset to invest in things that give me joy.
Now that the physical world is accessible once more, I am supplementing my digital subscriptions with some real world ones – first is a run coach. But I’m also doing some Marie Kondo’ing and removing apps that “don’t spark joy”.

What should be your personal app strategy?

1. If you are hitting paywalls often and it is hurting your seamless digital experience spring for the paid version.
2. Set aside a monthly “digital budget” to manage your tool kit. Keeping YOLO in mind, of course.
3. Pay for content – the quality and experience is better. Psst -my book – Marketing without Money is finally finished and is going to launch in December!

Next issue:

My previous issue covered the need for a multi-channel approach to content embracing manga, audio, video etc. Some of my readers wrote in to say it was one of my best ever! Thank you Hilton Barbour, Julie Schwartz! Since the topic of neurodiversity struck a chord, the next issue of this newsletter will be on “Why all diversity is not equal”. 

Me in the media:

“Once upon a time in Korea” – Rajiv Singh, Forbes India

From Paul Writer:

Thanks for reading to the end! Here’s a bonus for you 🙂 Continuing my journey to push myself beyond text communication, here’s a 90 second video version of the previous issue of the newsletter.


  1. Paid app is fine if it is a productive tool. But subscription for news site is simply no. They are already making money through advertisements and through cookies and the annoying popups. And as such nowadays news sites are very partisan..right or left …no center. So why pay for their agenda? I have found ways to circumvent paid walls.


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