• Ciaran Burks

The Patreon Model of Creative Exchange

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

How Patreon is Changing the Way We Consume

Subscription-based media platforms including Netflix, Apple Music or HBO are well-known. Their audiences are large and represent an effort by media companies to more precisely target ideal consumers. Almost half of all online shoppers subscribe to an online media service, indicating the prominent shift towards subscription services. But new technology allows small audiences to support less mainstream content, and provide jobs or supplementary income for creative content creators.

Over 1 million “Patrons” support over 50,000 “Creators” on Patreon, a subscription based digital platform for supporting content. The business aims to connect individuals with their favourite content creators (including artists, educators and commentators), and takes a small cut for doing so. Online video-on-demand, as well as podcasts, are changing how we consume media. The zero-marginal cost of online content, non-existence of distribution barriers and ability to communicate with creators all contribute to the digital Gutenberg revolution we’re experiencing now. By way of example, Dr. Jordan Peterson, a controversial public intellectual, clinical psychologist and entrepreneur, aims to use funding from Patreon to offer degree-equivalent education at the highest possible quality everywhere at 1/10 the price or less. Patreon is still relatively small and many creators use the crowdfunding sight to gain small supplementary incomes to engage in their hobbies, from discussions of English league football to comedy shows. The sight also helps to support discussion of important topics and views that lie outside of mainstream media. Examples include podcasts by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, mixed martial arts commentator Joe Rogan, evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein and political commentator Dave Rubin.

The significance of such a trend is difficult to overstate. It seems that “the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content.” It remains to be seen exactly how revolutionary subscription-based models – for both big and small budget producers – will be. It is my hope that the shift will aid in the creation of a more equitable society. In a world with fewer distribution barriers for creative content and less centralised power for distributors of such content, entrepreneurs are in a better position than ever to connect with their markets, and perhaps starving artists need not go hungry in the coming years.

For more information, check out these sources:

Chen, T., Fenyo, K., Yang, S. & Zhang, J., 2018. Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers. [Online] Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/thinking-inside-the-subscription-box-new-research-on-ecommerce-consumers [Accessed 21 August 2018].

Patreon, 2018. About Patreon. [Online] Available at: https://www.patreon.com/about [Accessed 21 August 2018].

Peterson, J., 2018. Dr Jordan B Peterson is creating lectures about profound psychological ideas. [Online] Available at: https://www.patreon.com/jordanbpeterson [Accessed 21 August 2018].

Manjoo, F., 2017. How the Internet Is Saving Culture, Not Killing It. [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/technology/how-the-internet-is-saving-culture-not-killing-it.html?_r=0 [Accessed 21 August 2018].

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© 2020 by Ciaran Burks