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Online Media and Win-Win Patronage

This piece on How to Compete with Patreon by Siderea is interesting throughout, but this bit on enabling “non quid pro quo patronage” caught my eye:

There is an entire little universe of people using Patreon to be funded to do good works in the world. These may be open source contributors. They may be activists. They may be journalists or bloggers. They do not make things that they exchange for money with the people who pledge them on Patreon.

Their patrons do not pay these creators to give things to them. Their patrons pay these creators to give things to the world: to release code for anyone to use, to engage in activism that changes the world for the better, or to write things that anyone can read.

I’m one of them. The number one reason I signed up for Patreon as my funding platform nine years ago, was because it was literally the only way of funding my writing that did not entail my selling it: my withholding it only for those people who paid me for it.

She continues:

What I want to do is write openly on the internet where anyone can read what I write. Where what I write can be cited by anyone who wants to refer to it in any internet discussion.

The audience of my writing is not my patrons, and it is not just the people who pay me for it. It’s the whole world.

And that, quite explicitly, is what my patrons pay me to do.

I could not have put this better myself. This sort of win-win patronage is at the heart of what I do here on with the membership program; it’s what Tim Carmody calls Unlocking the Commons:

The most economically powerful thing you can do is to buy something for your own enjoyment that also improves the world. This has always been the value proposition of journalism and art. It’s a nonexclusive good that’s best enjoyed nonexclusively.

Anyways. This is a prediction for 2019 and beyond: The most powerful and interesting media model will remain raising money from members who don’t just permit but insist that the product be given away for free. The value comes not just what they’re buying, but who they’re buying it from and who gets to enjoy it.

I modelled my membership program, in part, after that “little universe of people using Patreon”. Watching what’s going on in the world of paid newsletters and paywalled media, the nonexclusive future of media that Tim hoped for is struggling for air, but I remain thankful to have found a group of readers who understand and support that vision in this tiny corner of the web.

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