Patreon Changed the Game

Hey, friends! I’m cross-posting this from Patreon for the sake of posterity, and my apologies if you wind up getting this message more than once.

I’ve never been good at Patreon. I’ve written about how uncomfortable it makes me before, but a lot of that comes down to cognitive dissonance on my end. There’s a mismatch between how patrons approach their funding and my perception that I need to provide value for the money that people give me.

But in reality, a lot of people who back a Patreon never actually read or listen to the content they’re allegedly buying; I know I don’t even do that myself. I just like the creators I support, and I want them to have money so they can keep doing good in the world. That’s probably the same for a lot of you. You’re not very interested in whether I write a story for the Patreon this month, or ever. You just like me, or at least my work, and want me to keep doing the things I’m doing. (OMG!) And all of us who pledge based on that philosophy are doing what Patreon started out to facilitate: provide a way for creators with teeny-tiny audiences to get enough support and encouragement to keep going. It’s a foundation to build on, so that maybe one day we might become another John Green or Amanda Palmer.

The conversation going on right now about Patreon’s changing fee structure has made it clear to me that their direction as a company is pivoting dramatically. They’re not interested in helping creators with teeny-tiny audiences anymore. They want to focus on the people who are John Green and Amanda Palmer right now... and that’s for sure not me.

I personally think this is an incredibly short-sighted business strategy, because the internet is made for the long tail. Amazon didn’t become Amazon by selling only the fifty most popular best-sellers; you go there because you can get anything, no matter how obscure. And more to the point, Amanda Palmer wasn’t born Amanda Palmer — she had to hustle hard to get to the point where a VC-backed business like Patreon is interested in skimming their percentage from her.

But Patreon can’t know which of their teeny-tiny creators are going to become the next big thing. I may yet become John Green one day — but now, if and when I get to that point, I’m not going to be interested in Patreon, because they weren’t there for me when I really needed it.

This Patreon was already dormant, but now you shouldn’t expect it to ever come back to life, because I don’t mean for it to. Please feel free to delete your pledge to me, and I’ll know it’s nothing personal. I’ll be looking into deleting the account entirely in the days to come. And may we all find each other again one day in a better, wiser place.  

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