The webcomics blog about webcomics

Key Words: Public Benefit

[Updated to add: Kevin Sonney is drawing a line in the sand for Patreon — he’ll not only walk on 31 Dec if the changes aren’t rolled back, he will use his (and I can speak to this personally) considerable tech skills to help any creators that want to move off Patreon to do so, for free. He may want to get one of those take-a-number things like at the deli counter, but expect others to replicate this offer.]

[Updated to add 2: Patreon is apparently planning to levy fees on money that’s already been through the credit-card processing charges.]

There are many things I want to do today, not the least dig into the book I just received, but Patreon has other plans.

Since yesterday’s newsbreak, the consensus has formed: this new plan (not yet in effect, but only 11 days away) is pissing off the US$1 supporters¹ (who will see an overhead of nearly 40% on their pledges), the high-value supporters, the creators (to whom the change has been pitched as a benefit), those who prize honesty and transparency, pretty much everybody.

Everybody except Kickstarter, that is. If you told me that Kickstarter had bribed somebody at Patreon to make this change so as to stir up interest in Drip, I’d almost believe you.

Crucially, the people that Patreon has promised will win out in the new regime are mad. They hate that they’re being sold on a plan that will make them a little more money (and a lot more for Patreon) at the expense of their supporters, about whom they are protective. They hate that Patreon is intruding into that relationship. They hate that Patreon is not even offering an option for the creators to eat the new fees. They hate that they’re being blown off. They’re making plans to exit rather than screw their supporters. They’re trying to figure out ways to game the system until they can find other means of income from the supporters they’re losing.

And everybody really hates the US$0.35/pledge fee, considering Patreon doesn’t charge backers per pledge, but once per total. It’s a naked cash grab. But, it appears, that was the entire point.

What’s really surprised me (apart from the ham-handedness about the entire rollout that I noted yesterday) is that I couldn’t find one person with an interest in Patreon that’s even neutral on this change. I’ve spent all my free time since last night trying to find one person — creator or backer — whose irritation went no higher than meh, whatcha gonna do? But no; literally everybody whose email address doesn’t end in hates everything about this change.

Which leads to a philosophical question — even if Patreon opted to abandon their plans, would anybody trust them again? To my mind, Kickstarter is smart enough to start picking off high-profile Patreon accounts in their invite-only period, giving them time to scale up without being overwhelmed.

Even more important, Kickstarter is fundamentally different from Patreon in a critical fashion: they’re a public benefit corporation; they are required by their charter to engage in a decision process that is not solely governed by how much money they can make.

Given the widespread (and, I think, correct) perception that Patreon’s changes are a cash-grab to make their investors happy (possibly in preparation for a sale), the institutional culture at Kickstarter is sure to engender a metric fuckload more trust than Patreon will ever be able to muster again.

Yesterday I said that Patreon would be much smaller in a year; I now think that was optimistic. Given their tone-deaf refusal to even acknowledge the concerns of their users, I think they’ve actually destroyed their platform. Even if they reverse, they’ll never be trusted again; those that stay will be whoever hasn’t gotten in with Drip yet, and they’ll jump ship as soon as they get their invite. I hope it was worth it, Patreon, because you’re well and truly pooched³.

Spam of the day:

How did I earn 11000 bitcoins in 55 days

Stealing electricity and causing untold ecological damage? I can’t wait for that bubble to burst.

¹ I wonder what percentage of all pledges at Patreon are at the $1 level? I’d give 50:50 odds it’s a majority.

² That’s 2.54 Imperial fuckloads.

³ And thus, we turn full circle and return to Ryan North, with whom we opened. Life’s great like that sometimes.

[…] webcomics blog Fleen has a great summary of the online reaction. And they conclude […]

Argh, what? I got an email from Patreon, but was too busy with Real Life (work deadlines are Hell this time of year) to digest what it said, and now this has blown up, and I’m at work, and busy for the next 20-odd hours and unable to do much about it right now.

&@#*(^$ it never rains but it pours.

Count me in as pissed as hell. I’ll do somethigng about it too, when I get a moment to breathe.

Patreon’s blog had an update explaining more clearly: they actually are going to start charging backers per pledge, not per total!

It’s meant to avoid the customer service problems with people pledging during the month (or worse, at the end) and then getting charged again the first of the following month. Instead, charges will be strictly monthly from the time you first pledge. (Snark: so if I pledge on the 31st of a month, I only get charged 7 times a year?)

I still think it’s a terrible idea as it destroys a major reason Patreon is useful in the first place: bundling together many pledges into one transaction to reduce processing fees.

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