This is Scott again. Not Angry. Though, you’ll be forgiven if you confuse the two of us considering the amount of swearing involved. We get to talk about Patreon AGAIN!
Did you want to read an article about False Starts and Other Dirty Lies? One about how to structure campaigns that start off about one thing and become about something else? Well, tough shit. Because instead, we get to talk about Patreon some more. That article will likely hit tomorrow or Friday. It’s in the final revision process. It was delayed because I’ve spent the last week dealing with the Patreon fallout. And now has been further delayed because we now have an important message from Jack Conte – who has politely dislodged his head from ass long enough to deliver an important message – he’s really sorry.
If you’ve been following the news, Patreon changed the way it was charging fees in a way that was going to screw supporters and pass the savings along to creators. I addressed that. Then Patreon further clarified with more information to indicate that the screwing was going to be worse than anyone realized. I addressed that too. And then, after a long weekend of communicating with my generous and increasingly patient supporters – I talked about my immediate future plans and also helped my supporters structure their pledges to avoid the worst of the fees while also explaining why I was wary of making immediate changes on the back end.
Well, guess what?
Patreon has decided – five days before the changes were supposed to roll out and seven days after they surprised everyone by announcing the changes nobody asked for – Patreon has decided NOT to make the changes after all. Maybe. Yet.
Here is their anemic little squitter about it: Jack Conte – “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change.”
If you don’t want to read that blog post, here’s a video that sums it up nicely:
So, what does that mean for you?
The Good News
You aren’t going to be charged an extra fee on your pledge. If you Pledge $1 per article per month, that is precisely what you pay. If you pledge $16 once per month, that is precisely what you pay. Everything will keep working the way it always has. If you haven’t changed anything, you don’t have to. If you have changed anything, you don’t have to change it back.
Once again, I keep my own books and records. I don’t rely on Patreon’s reports. I know who is pledging what over what time frame. And I dole out rewards and access based on the totals. So, if you decided to switch from PER ARTICLE pledges to a ONCE MONTHLY pledge as I suggested, it doesn’t change anything for me. Nothing at all. It didn’t then. It doesn’t now. And it doesn’t have any impact on fees.
Please do not change anything. Unless…
I know some of you have increased your pledges to “help me out.” Out of the kindness of your hearts, you have bumped your pledges to offset lost Patrons or just as a show of solidarity or help stabilize me or whatever. You are wonderful people. And I greatly appreciate it. It has helped. Honestly, it DID stabilize things. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
But if you overdid it – if you pledged some crazy, unsustainable amount just to help me out – please make whatever change you need to make. Lower your pledge. Drop it. Whatever you have to do. The changes aren’t going through. Things will be fine.
The Bad News
There is literally no bad news for you. It’s all good news. Nothing is changing. Everything is wonderful. And we – the creators – should be cheering and celebrating right now because we won. We stuck up for our supporters and Patreon reversed their decision. But I won’t be slapping anyone’s back or high-fiving anyone tonight at the bar. We Creators are going to be drinking alone tonight. Miserable. And this is why that South Park video is actually so apropos.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that my supporters – my customers, my fans, my friends – I’m happy they aren’t eating extra fees just to show me the same support they always have. I was mad about that from the get go. That’s why I worked so hard to make sure everyone knew what was coming and why I made my feelings on this whole debacle VERY clear to Patreon. I did not want YOU to eat extra fees to save ME money. And I am glad that it’s not going forward.
But – and excuse my language when I say this – every creator has now been royally fucked over. Bad. The reality is that many creators starting hemorrhaging support the moment this was announced. In the creator communities on Patreon, some creators were reporting losses of 30% to 50% of their support base. I myself have a pile of exit surveys from ex-supporters who were protesting the new fees. Those supporters are gone now. And, despite the reversal, many will not come back. Not for a long time. The platform lost a lot of trust. And many supporters will be fatigued or frustrated enough not to bother. I guarantee it. The bleeding has stopped, but there is no transfusing coming. We all lost a lot of support and we’re never going to get it back.
On top of that, Jack’s message makes it clear that they still intend to make a change in the future. Except now, we don’t know what it will be or when it will happen. All we have is a promise that it won’t be as bad as this. This was pretty bad. It ruined a lot of creators. And, sadly, the creators who stayed ahead of it – people like me who wanted to be as transparent as possible – they probably fared the worst. There’s lots of people out there – creators and supporters – who don’t read the e-mails or blogs and didn’t even know this was happening. They’ll never know what almost happened. The supporters didn’t drop their support. The creators didn’t see any major impact. They are fine.
Meanwhile, people like me have spent literally days of work dealing with this fallout. We’ve worked hard to inform our supporters. We’ve made changes. We dropped our reward levels, changed the way we structure pledges, or encouraged our supporters to change their pledges accordingly. I have now written more than two feature-length articles worth of words on this topic. And that’s not counting e-mails, private messages, comments, and all the other things that can be considered “good PR” or “damage control.”
After a week, many of us suffered most of the damage we were going to suffer. We lost the sleep, we did the damage control, we dealt with the loss of support, we made what changes we could, and we started looking at Plan B’s. And that time and effort and support that we lost – we’re not going to get a lot of it back. In return, we were supposed to be able to keep more of our pledge money. We were supposed to have lower fees. But we’re not getting that either. We – the creators – took a lot of the hit for this decision but we’re not getting the promised payoff. We just got screwed. Pure and simple.
What we did get is this vague, ominous statement that Patreon is going to somehow, someday try to “fix things” again. And that means we’ve now gotten a lot of uncertainty about the future. And so do the supporters that did stick it out. What will that future fix be? When will it be? How will that one hurt?
I’m not saying this to drum up any sympathy at all. Frankly, as I said, I view this as a business. And this is the price for running a business. If you run a business and run it well, you get to make a good profit that is entirely yours and you answer to no one. But if things go bad, it’s all on you. And a lot of the things that can go bad are things completely out of your control. And what Patreon was doing isn’t even that unusual. It’s exactly the same thing restaurants and grocery stores go through every time a state or city decides to add a tax to this good or that. We just went through this debacle here in Chicago with a sweetened beverage tax. Customers suddenly saw an extra fee for purchasing the same drinks they bought the day before and the stores had to suffer the lost sales that always accompany higher prices. Same thing.
I’m just saying this because as much as I want to join in the celebration right now – and go to the sports bar and have high fives and brewskies because Patreon listened to us – it’s hard for me not to see the damage that has been done that will take a long time to undo. And the wasted work. And the stress. And if any other creators you support seem to be very mixed about all of this right now, please show them some sympathy.
I’m not making any changes right now. But I’m also not rolling back any changes. I’m not raising my reward levels back to where they were before this all started. And if you dropped your pledge to take advantage of those decreased reward levels, keep them right where they are. I’m chalking that up to a business loss and moving on.
I am watching my backer activity carefully. If enough people shift to a “single pledge per month” pattern instead of a “per creation” pattern, I will still flip that switch. I’ll just have to stay honest and keep up the work. If you want to switch to a single pledge per month, please do so. I’d just ask you to wait about a week to make any changes at this point. I desperately need the dust to settle a little so I can see where I’m at.
I still intend fully to explore the implementation of a Patreon alternative in the first quarter of next year. I’ve actually already started exploring alternatives. More news on that will come when it’s closer. But it is not something I’m going to do hastily. We’ve gone through enough with this bullshit already.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or e-mail me or contact me via social media. I will answer as soon as I can. But please understand I’m being inundated with fresh questions. It might take a little bit of time to get to everyone. However, there is one question I can answer right now:
A lot of people have been asking me if there is anything to can do to offset the damage that’s been done. Can they bump up their pledge to offset fees? Whatever. And my answer is: don’t do that. I don’t want that. At this point, I’m not even sure what the damage is. And the number of people helping me in that way – that very generous way that I greatly appreciate – has made it even more difficult to see where I’m going to fall. I don’t want donations. I don’t want charity. I don’t want help. There is only one thing I want.
I want people to look at the articles I produce and decide what those articles are worth to them. And then, if that amount is within their means to pledge without costing them too much, I’d like them to pledge exactly that number. No more. No less. That is all I’ve ever wanted.
Now, with all of that out of the way, let me say this: first of all, thank you. Thank you for your support, your patience, your encouragement, and your readership. The strength of the community I find myself at the center of is a true blessing. I can’t say that enough. And the solidarity this community has shown me is worth more than I can say. Second of all, I’m sorry that this has eaten so much of your time. Frankly, you never should have had to see any of this. It should have stayed on the back end. It should never have spilled out to you. Patreon did everyone who uses their platform to support the creators they love a grave disservice by forcing them to deal with any of this crap. It should never be more complicated than “Click here to Pledge Your Support.” This should only have ever been my problem. Not yours. Third of all, I want to wish each and every one of you a bright, happy, and healthy holiday season. Merry Christmas. Chanukah Sameach. Have a Good Solstice. Happy New Year. Whatever you celebrate, I hope it’s a good one.
And here’s to a better New Year.
Come back in a few days and I’ll give you that article about False Start campaigns. I swear.