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When Was The Last Time I Stayed On One Topic For Three Days?

[Edit to add: Be sure to read footnote #3. It’s .. yeah, not good.]

Well, it seems Patreon came out with an explanation that both makes and defies sense. It seems that to combat that problem of people signing up and getting access to restricted content, then canceling prior to their first charge at the end of the month, they’ve decided to charge everybody right away, and at monthly intervals thereafter. Let’s see if we can summarize the situation:

  • To combat what is absolutely a problem, they chose a solution that involves a maximum of fees
  • They chose to blow smoke up the asses of creators and supporters about their logic
  • There are other solutions to the the scam pledges problem (David Malki ! proposed one, within hours that seems superior to Patreon’s)
  • Nothing has changed since yesterday — creators are pissed off, supporters are dropping in droves
  • I can’t find evidence of even one user of the many that Patreon insists were consulted over the course of a year’s planning¹
  • Seriously, what the eff was up with the messaging?

Let’s just focus on the last one. Patreon set up a situation that was almost tailor-made for zero control of their message. They didn’t present anything that described the problem they were trying to fix; they didn’t lay out any of the alternatives considered; they didn’t present any reasons why they think their solution is good; they didn’t acknowledge any of the users (creators or supporters) that are telling them that the new solution is crap; they let a half-message out in the internet age, guaranteeing both that an incorrect conclusion was accepted as fact, and that there was no counter-narrative². Don’t even get me started on the terrible graph they tried to foist on us.

I think they think their judgment was good; I think they overlooked something critical. I was reading a couple days back (it’s only been a couple of days) that Patreon’s many decisions only really make sense for large-subscriber-count YouTube personalities³. That makes sense, given where Jack Conte’s band made its name.

But I don’t think they ever considered that most of their creator users aren’t large-subscriber-count YouTubers, and most of their supporter users aren’t supporting one or two favorite YouTubers. I’m told that Patreon has metrics and numbers on everything, so I’m sure they have the answers to these:

What percentage of all support pledges are at the one or two dollar level?
What percentage of all supporters include no high-dollar-value pledges?
How many creator-users are there vs supporter-users?

Because I’m willing to bet it’s at least 50% in each case, and those are the people who are bearing the brunt of the new fee regime. Even if it’s not true, they created a policy business model change that maybe benefits the small cohort of their users by explicitly screwing over the large cohort.

Patreon took the model of bundling pledges and charging once a month — one thing that made the service worthwhile for all of its supporters (but especially the low-dollar-value supporters), and arguably the core function of the business — and threw it away. I am unable to come up with an analogy of a company so thoroughly abandoning their own key feature. Maybe New Coke? A closer analogy would be Tesla announcing an over-the-air update in a week and a half that replaced the electrics in their cars with VW regulation-cheating diesels.

The logic of the decision is, if not in my opinion sound, at least defensible, but Patreon didn’t trust its users enough to defend it. The (best reading) incompetent or (worst reading) dishonest way they treated their user base is a mark that will persist. Kickstarter is smart enough to keep to their plans for Drip, maybe speed things up by 10%, but they won’t rush to open the gates to all; they know that as the invites go ever wider (and when they’re ready, invites are no longer needed), creators that don’t trust Patreon any more will be waiting to shift.Ko-Fi, Venmo, Paypal, Tippeee, Flattr, Google Wallet, and other means of cash transfer are suddenly burning up the search engines.

They can reverse their changes (and who knows, they may still listen to the very many, very rational reasons this change is terrible for nearly everybody), but that might arguably be worse than sticking it out; right now, every one of their users knows that Patreon will throw large changes down with little warning and bad rationale … if they reverse, they’ll be even more unpredictable than they are now.

In any event, the perception I see is, even from people who say Okay, I see what they were trying to do, is a variation on Wow, Patreon really thinks I’m an idiot; why am I using them? I don’t think they can regain the lost goodwill before their users scatter to the winds.

Spam of the day:

Start a gold IRA in 3 easy steps

Who is Ira, and why is he gold?

¹ The one person who is not entirely opposed to the change? On the Patreon advisory board and holds equity in Patreon. Not a good look, Green.

² That last one should cause whoever is in charge of their communications to lose their job. Expecting creators to sell a plan about which they knew nothing to the users was maybe the most egregiously incompetent thing out of many in this fiasco.

³ I’m sorry that I didn’t note who did the analysis, or where. It was very good. But just as I’m preparing to hit Publish, I came across this and holy crap.

Patreon not only doesn’t care about low-value supporters, they don’t care about low-value creators, either. This is really, really shitty Silicon Valley sociopathy at its finest, while Patreon has presented a public face of wanting to enable all creators. Instead, they just want to enable YouTubers that inspire irrational, cultish devotion.

[…] EVERYBODY’S TALKIN’. Fleen continues its epic roundups about the Patreon controversy and lists the […]

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