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