Patreon is only one example of the control we're all giving up

- 3 mins

A little while ago Patreon on screwed up. As I write the first draft of this article, they have just sent out a big broad apology we shall looks like they understand pretty much most of what they did wrong. But let's break it down because it's an example of a broader issue to do with curated or manipulated social interaction.

For those that don't know Patreon acts as a facilitator to allow people who do a thing to be matched with people that would like to support that thing. There are also a payment processor. They're vaguely social media as they have a feed and a bit of a network thing going on, but their core they provide facilities for an artist usually to set up a presence to publish content and to receive payment from fans.

I've known about Patreon for ages, in fact I have a Patreon creators account from when I was doing a pod cast. I never got any money through it but I'm still there as a creator as well as a patron. I have only recently started paying any money to people on Patreon, because a person whose career I've tracked for something like 15 years popped onto Patreon and started offering something I thought was really cool and I want to support. Patriot never really helped me find anything I was interested in their social network-y bit of their site is not very good, but they had set up a fairly easy to use system for people that wanted to get a little bit of money in the stuff they were probably going to do anyway.

Patreon basically inserted itself into people's relationships and offered a convenient way to monetise creative activities. Until they screwed up.

On the surface their mistake was to manipulate the payment and the fee is in order to give themselves a short-term revenue boost that commentators believed was for a number round of funding. But more broadly their mistake was to point out the power they have in this relationship in a way that upset basically everybody. And possibly to believe that they were the only game in town.

The reason the outcry to their mistake was so large and so immediate was that there are users on their service who make money on their service. To some extent you tube has a similar problem whenever they make a change that impacts their creators, but in new tubes case the percentage of people who are on you tube to make money is far smaller than the percentage of people on Petrie and to make money. But I believe both these sites have to solve the same problem; but they're not actually profitable.

Companies that try to make money facilitating social relationships face an uphill battle, but they're the ones that tend to put themselves at the bottom of the hill at the start of the battle. By that I mean most of these organisations do not have a profitable business model when they start. Unless you call venture capitalist funding a business model, and to be fair I think a lot of the world does at the moment. Social media style services, that provide a marketplace or a sort of networking facilitator, in the style of Facebook, are hugely popular and everywhere, but they're not necessarily successful in the traditional sense of the word and they haven't been with us for a very long time in the grand scheme of things. While there has been a generation now that has grown up with online communities, such a thing did not exist when I was born. While there are some successful organisations, such as Facebook, the business model is not that robust and not that well proven. Both social media organisations in general and two sided marketplace services flare out at an amazing rate. Even the darlings of these industries, such as Uber and Facebook, come under a lot of criticism for their behaviour.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

May contain traces of nuts

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