Here at TVWriter™ we’re always urging creatives to write/produce/et al for the interwebs, but we admit that we’ve always been as much in the dark as everybody else about how to monetize interweb work. (TVWriter™ contributors make money? Ha! For that matter, TVWriter™ itself make money? Ha! Ha!)
The following article, however, delivers what we all need – something practical. At last!
by Casey Johnston
Getting paid on the Internet, a place where many people only recently became OK with putting their credit card numbers, is no easy task. This is especially true for independent artists and creators. Zach Weinersmith, creator of the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), is particularly tired of the ebb and flow of advertising dollars, not to mention the quality of ads on his site. Luckily, he’s found a new hope in Patreon, a funding site that lets his fans pay him on a subscription basis.
“[Ads] are a stressful way to make your living,” Weinersmith told Ars. Ads are volatile—January’s ad sales might be “20 to 30 percent of what I made in December,” Weinersmith says. While his site might serve 1.5 million ads in a day, he doesn’t have complete quality control over the types of ads. He’d love to take money from sites peddling Russian brides, he says, but the quality hit is palpable.
Not only are ads stressful, but they’re increasingly ineffective, Weinersmith says. Approximately 30 percent of his audience, which he says skews tech-savvy, block his ads completely, according to discrepancies from what his advertising partners report and what his own site analytics show.
So in an effort to become less dependent on an advertising system, Weinersmith recently opened acampaign for SMBC on Patreon, a new funding platform launched in May of this year. It allows an artist’s audience to pay for an artist’s work (becoming a “patron,” hence the name) on a subscription basis, anywhere from a few dollars to $100 a month. In a little over a week, SMBC earned a total monthly pledge of $6,700 from 2,300 readers—well above what Weinersmith was expecting, he says.
Patreon’s subscription is set up so that patrons pay every time the creator releases a new piece of content. The creator is able to set tiers of benefits for different subscription amounts, like Weinersmith’s live drawing webcasts, early access to new comics, or monthly Q&A videos, to entice patrons to pay more.
Jack Conte, one of Patreon’s founders, says that content distribution directly through Patreon to facilitate these bonus items is a recent addition. Conte also notes that the platform has already attracted the attention of “a few YouTubers” with over two million subscribers and that January will see a number of high-profile funding launches on the service.