Patreon Turns Me On

2 February 2015 | 21 Comments

I’ve recently discovered that I really, really like Patreon…for what it is. Just yesterday I discovered that GeekDad has a Patreon account, and I was legitimately excited for the opportunity to support them. They joined the list of Patreon campaigns I support, including Funding the Dream, The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast, Cardboard Edison, Starlit Citadel, and Board Gamers Anonymous.

What Is Patreon?

In their words, it’s a way to “support and engage with the creators you love.” More specifically, Patreon is a platform to help content creators accept micropayments on a regular basis.

For content consumers, if you see your favorite podcast, YouTube channel, or blog on Patreon, you can choose a payment (as little as $1) and how long you want to make that payment (i.e., once a month for 6 months).

Here’s a quick comparison to traditional crowdfunding:

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Tilt are for creators who want to make something new.

Patreon is for creators who want to continue making content they already produce on a regular basis.

I must admit I was hesitant about this system at first. I’ve been reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos for years…for free. Why would I start paying for the same content? I subscribe to hundreds of different forms of content, so I would quickly go broke if I paid for all of them.

Can’t Content Creators Just Use Kickstarter?

I’ve seen some content creators turn to Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise money for the next “season” of their blog/podcast/channel. A few that come to mind that I’ve supported in the last year are Rahdo Runs Through, The Dice Tower, Drive Thru Review, Watch It Played, and Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop.

The traditional crowdfunding model works fine, but I’m starting to think it may not be the right model for this type of ongoing content. There are certain expectations that go along with a crowdfunding campaign: You have to have rewards and stretch goals and a funding goal, all within a truncated amount of time.

But for content creators, the reward is the content. Stretch goals rarely apply because really they just want to recoup the costs of the money they’re already paying. And a specific funding goal doesn’t matter as much–they’re probably going to keep making the content if they don’t fully cover their monthly costs, because they’ve already been doing it for a while anyway.

If You Start a Patreon Campaign, Don’t Copy the Kickstarter Model

Despite all that, content creators who now use Patreon are still trying to echo that traditional crowdfunding model. Here’s the thing: They really don’t need to.

When I hear about a blog, podcast, or channel that now has a Patreon campaign, I don’t care about stretch goals, rewards, or funding goals. I’m just happy to have an easy way to support the ongoing creation of content I enjoy. Patreon is a way for fans like me to give back a little bit at a time.

Part of the key here is that Patreon should not create more work for the content creator. It already takes so much time to create and maintain the content–anything above and beyond that could detract from the content that drew your fans to support you in the first place. Sure, you should send out a project update from time to time, but nothing close to the level of communication required for a Kickstarter project.

How to Structure a Patreon Campaign

Not all fans are like me. There are uber-fans out there who want more (and some fans who just want a little more), so I recommend that Patreon campaigns have a few different reward levels:

  • $1: Basic thank-you
  • $2-$3: Ability to vote on new content
  • $10-$20: Something special, personalized, and ongoing

$10-20 might not seem like much for an uber-fan, but keep in mind that $10-$20 a month adds up to $120-$240 over the course of the year. That’s a lot of money from one person.

The campaign page itself can be very simple. Just explain the following:

  • Who you are
  • How long you’ve been creating content
  • How often you add new content
  • (optional) How much it costs you a month to create the content

Be sure to include a sense of passion for the content you create and for your fans. The video should be short and personal.

You can include “milestone goals” if you want (it’s neat that Patreon offers built-in stretch goal functionality), but I think the majority of Patreon supports don’t need that as inspiration to give.

With Great Funding (or Even Not-So-Great Funding) Comes Great Responsibility

As I was writing this post, I started think, “Why don’t you do a Patreon? You spend hours writing this blog and replying to comments every week. The site isn’t free, and your time is limited and valuable. Why not give people the opportunity to support this blog?”

All fair points. But here’s the thing: I like to write this blog without expectation. That changes the second someone gives me $1 to write at least 8 blog entries next month. Suddenly I’m writing to meet that expectation and that deadline–I’m no longer writing just because I want to help other creators.

I’m not saying that’s a valid reason; it’s more of a psychological block. I think a Patreon campaign is a distinct possibility in the future, though.

Your Thoughts

Have you supported someone on Patreon? Is your experience similar to mine, or do you want stretch goals and fancy rewards?

Leave a Comment

21 Comments on “Patreon Turns Me On

  1. Hey Jamey:
    you said
    “I like to write this blog without expectation. That changes the second someone gives me $1 to write at least 8 blog entries next month. Suddenly I’m writing to meet that expectation and that deadline–I’m no longer writing just because I want to help other creators.”

    Did you ever consider putting a paypal (or other) support button for people to back you up if they want to? This way there is no obligation on either side and you then give people a chance to help you financially :)
    Amanda Palmer once said: “How do you make people pay for music? You let them.”

    1. Rafal: Thanks for your suggestion. My mentality so far has been that if a reader of this blog wants to support my efforts, they can back our Kickstarter campaigns. I’m still debating if that’s the best way to do it, because not all readers of this blog are gamers, but I do think if someone reads this blog and wants to see how to run (and sometimes how not to run) a campaign, backing one of my projects is a good way to do that.

  2. Hey, Jamey! Thank you for supporting the podcast/videocast community, both financially and through this post! I especially appreciated the demarcation you make between crowdfunding and ‘patronage’ (why don’t we use that word more?).

    Add in Gamecrafter’s new “Crowd Sales” program, and it’s becoming obvious that there are varying funding models that are better suited for specific situations.

    I’d ask you for your take on Crowd Sales, but that’s better left for a future post… :)

  3. I’ve just started to get into Patreon to support a couple of podcasts I like, and I’m slowly finding more and more people to support. My favorite thing – it has much less impact on the bank account. You can get into a Kickstarter binge and end up backing $100s of projects at once. But with Patreon it’s really easy to dip your toes in and back $1 here and there.

    It really makes it easy to feel like you’re having an impact without breaking the bank. Because people are (usually) going to produce regardless of what they get, you do not have to make a hard commitment (like KS) and you’ll still get something, even with a $1 pledge. But you could back five Patreon accounts and really make an impact, without facing a huge bill at the end of the month.

    1. Dave: I agree, I like that it’s such a small payment. It’s a clever business model too, as the more projects you support, the more Patreon can charge you all at once per month (I doubt they make much for a single $1 charge, but when you get up to $5 or $10 a month, the margins improve).

  4. I mostly want nothing, though I’ve been finding voting rights offered by some to be rather fun. I’ll typically figure out what I want to give to a given content creator a month, and figure out how much to give them per episode based on that (This is why I prefer ‘per month’ campaigns), and just go in at the right level for that.

    …I’d have likely voted ‘nothing’ rather than ‘voting rights’ if it wasn’t for the fact that seeing an episode of a video series that happened because of me kind of giving me a buzz just recently (If you’d have asked that poll on Friday, I’d have voted otherwise, but this weekend the episode of Musical Hell I suggested (The Singing Detective; that’s the film, not the tv show) just dropped, so… Yeah I hadn’t realized how much I liked being able to suggest topics or vote on future miniseries, etc, until now.

    1. Gizensha: I also like “per month” giving schedules, as it lets me easily calculate how much I’ll be giving them over the next year.

      I almost wonder if voting rights should be the $1 level. I mean, out of the small percentage of readers who pay anything, shouldn’t they get something special?

  5. I first heard of Patreon from Richard Bliss’s show, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. And you nailed it – it’s not a about a singular event, like Kickstarter. It’s about ongoing support for those creating regularly occurring content. I support Richard this way, and I’ll support other content creators this way. I have even recommended it to local events that occur regularly. A local event coordinator told me she is trying to organize a regularly occurring, free networking event and she wants to pay for bands, food, etc… This is a different kind of content – more of a service, but a perfect use case for patrons to support their cause. And you’re right, in that once she gets it setup and it becomes a regular part of her marketing, the organizer doesn’t have to do anything extra besides mentioning it to increase her support mechanism. It just works. Jamey, for what it’s worth, I’ll back your blog for an ongoing buck, should you ever decide to open a Patreon account. I think those who understand that “people have to make a living” or the content goes dry would support you too. – Chris

  6. One thing I love about Patreon is that it allows adult content – I make a full-time living writing erotica, and so being able to offer my backers advance previews and custom content has made a huge difference. Considering the fact that my backers are obviously unlikely to share the page with their friends, I think I’ve done spectacularly well on Patreon:

  7. Hey Jamey,

    Great content as always. This post came at a great time for me. I’m just putting together a Patreon page up for my podcast. After reading your post, I could see how I was totally over thinking some areas (sucked into Kickstarter mentality), and not giving enough attention to others.

    Your post helped stop me from spinning my wheels… and I think I’m making progress!

    Thanks for your help and keep up the great work!

  8. Isaias: Thanks for your comment! I haven’t heard of Game Designers Clubhouse, but that sounds awesome!

    For me, as a Patreon support, the thing I get back in return is the content they produce. My mentality is totally different for Kickstarter.

    1. I think that makes sense for lower values (which can be subjective), but once you get in to a certain threshold (again, subjective) you start to expect something in return. But it can be as little as being able to vote on the content as you stated in your article.

      It could just be that in my mind, they are or were already doing the thing you’re supporting, so the extra money is to allow that person to do a bit more.

  9. Great article, Jamey. I support Daniel Solis (he makes monthly icon sets for card/board games), Cardboard Edison (aside from early access to great material, they also do monthly play tests and can provide editing services), and Game Designers Clubhouse (guaranteed play testing of your games recorded on video). Patreon is a great platform to support someone, but I do feel like if you’re going to give someone money then you should be getting back something in return.

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