Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Patreon is about to eat itself (twitter.com/foldablehuman)
204 points by evv on Feb 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 215 comments

People forgot what "sustainable business model" even means. It does not mean "infinite growth and 10 VC funds that want you to crap over your product to make even more money".

Sustainable business model means that you can pay your bills from your income (not from investments, since those want payback). It means happy customers and good products. It means that you grow in a reasonable pace, with costs that you'll be able to cover. Investors are a liability, not a feature.

You are technically correct BUT when founders see that they get better ROI via the investor model, rather than 'sustainable development', it's technically rational to do just that. All it means is that there are probably millions of retirees who'll get stuck with all those losses, because the investment model depends on the greater fool theory, and if I understand how IPOs work, those are mostly retirement funds.

> it's technically rational to do just that

It's rational only in the same way that Vulcans are always logical (as Star Trek writers would have you believe).

Rationality is a tool to help you achieve your goals and realize your values better. Any particular method can only ever be rational relative to some goal one is seeking.

I think you're both talking past each other a bit. The difference is between maximizing short-term gains and maximizing long-term gains.

The thing about investing is that you can take advantage of maximizing short-term gains and get out before the investment would crater. So taking advantage of a non-sustainable business model is fine if you can get out before the bill comes due. This is rational, but not sustainable.

If you're running the company, and you care about it, and its employees, then you want something sustainable in the long-term.

Actually, the comment you're replying to is querying what "gains" means - i.e. what you're gaining.

Yeah but for most people, $$$ is a very important goal and, when sufficiently large, overrides most others. Especially other goals in the professional space.

> It's rational only in the same way that Vulcans are always logical (as Star Trek writers would have you believe).

But Star Trek writers wouldn't generally have you believe that (they'd have you believe that some Vulcans themselves would believe that and/or have others believe that and/or seek that.)

> Rationality is a tool to help you achieve your goals and realize your values better.

Rationality isn't a tool, it is perfectly optimal goal seeking.

> Any particular method can only ever be rational relative to some goal one is seeking.

Well, no, it's relative to the utility-weighted combination of all of your goals; that is, rational behavior is whatever behavior optimizes your complete utility function, not just addresses one of your goals in isolation.

> Rationality isn't a tool, it is perfectly optimal goal seeking.

I think you just agreed with the comment you're trying to disagree with. To paraphrase your comment: "rationality is a tool for achieving one or more goals".

If not a tool, what would you describe it as? Animal instincts - the kind we're hard-wired with - aren't "rational" in the context of human society so being rational is in some sense a choice. The only way to define this away is to extend the definition such that all human behaviour is "rational" because it's meant to fulfill some conscious or unconscious goal. But this definition is useless!

> I think you just agreed with the comment you're trying to disagree with.

You are wrong.

> To paraphrase your comment: "rationality is a tool for achieving one or more goals".

No, “rationality is a tool...” is not a correct paraphrase of “rationality is not a tool...”.

Rationality isn't a tool for optimization, it is simply a label for perfect optimization of the utility function.

Utility weighting is fine and good, but rationality in the long term is definitely constrained by uncertainty. Rationality cannot be perfectly optimal, because perfection would require closed ended choices. If you don't know the size of a factor like uncertainty, you cannot rationally assign it a utility weight.

> Rationality cannot be perfectly optimal, because perfection would require closed ended choices.

Rationality is, by definition, perfectly optimal, though you describe succinctly why it cannot actually exist, only at best be approximated.

They rarely get better ROI. It's true that a small percentage of something huge is better than owning all of something small... but this is entirely contingent on getting huge and that's incredibly rare. Even if you get big, exits aren't guaranteed and many still fall after massive valuations.

Acquirers are few and far between and rapidly diminish once you cross the $50M mark. Going public is even more difficult. And after all that, once you add in dilution and liquidation preferences, founders can still end up with nothing.

Meanwhile many of these companies can build great sustainable businesses that meet customer needs while making plenty of margin and owning their own destiny. It's a SV cultish attitude to think that VC is the way to get things done, and I've seen way too many founders whose first thought is to raise money before they even have a serious plan for a business.

> it's technically rational to do just that.

> there are probably millions of retirees who'll get stuck with all those losses

These statements don't seem to fit together. Dumping losses on retirees doesn't seem rational, it seems sociopathic.

It depends whether you are rationally trying to maximize your own profits at any cost, or acting in a way that is also good for others. It's possible to seek evil ends in a rational way.

> rationally trying to maximize your own profits at any cost

That sounds like a great plan if you're not going to be a retiree in a few decades. Maybe you plan on dying early?

> It's possible to seek evil ends in a rational way.

Teaching people how to kick someone when they're down isn't rational. It just means that you're going to get kicked when you're down, too.

> That sounds like a great plan if you're not going to be a retiree in a few decades. Maybe you plan on dying early?

No, I'm saying investing while things are hot, and selling before it cools down is a way to maximize profits. It doesn't require sustainability. There are a ton of millionaires from the Dot Com boom in the early 2000s that got theirs and got out before the bubble broke. It works; it just leaves a _lot_ of collateral damage, so it's not a moral thing to do. But it works. That was my point.

> Teaching people how to kick someone when they're down isn't rational. It just means that you're going to get kicked when you're down, too.

There are a lot of rich people that would laugh at this. I'm not saying it's good, I'm saying it's rational.

> There are a ton of millionaires from the Dot Com boom in the early 2000s that got theirs and got out before the bubble broke.

And there's a lot of not-millionaires who tried that and missed the window by that much.

> But it works. That was my point.

It works sometimes. But it's unreliable. Maybe you get lucky, and maybe you don't. That's not being rational, that's just plain old gambling. Some people became millionaires from scratch-off tickets, too.

Socipaths are often extremely rational. They just don't have a moral foundation or framework.

I was under the impression that sociopaths are frequently impulsive, acting without considering the long term consequences of their behavior? (Pulling from sites like: https://psychcentral.com/blog/differences-between-a-psychopa... )

impulsive doesn't necessarily equal irrational.

Many of them have been perfectly rational and have had very good impulse control.

> Investors are a liability, not a feature.

It isn't fair to make a post identifying a misused phrase, but then turn around and call investors a liability. Investors are a key part of the process.

While I personally agree with you on what a sustainable business model should mean, investors hold the opinion that actually matters (much like a judge's opinion of what is reasonable is more important than the average armchair expert). Someone has to decide what "sustainable" means, and it is best that the person who decides is the one who stumped up the money.

> Someone has to decide what "sustainable" means, and it is best that the person who decides is the one who stumped up the money.

If you have no investor and the company has grown organically from the initial founding, the only people that stumped up money are the owners or, in a more cooperatively organized company, the people that took less wage to allow for investment in growth. Taking on investment relinquishes control over various features of your company, for example on the desired definition of "sustainable". In that regard, investors are a liability.

VCs don't care about sustainability. They care about exiting early and exiting big. This is the opposite of sustainability.

> Investors are a key part of the process.

What process?

The process of making money for investors.

The birth, existence and death of companies.

Why does putting up money let you decide what is sustainable? Aren't you investing in a company that already told you what they think it is?

This assumes all investment is based on the company and founder's current goals and vision, and not what the investors think they can do with that as a base to achieve their own goals.

Given how often we hear about founders being replaced as operators, I think it's prudent to not assume the intentions of any investors, and to reassess their likely goals based on their actions on a regular basis.

Who pays the piper calls the tune. Any company has to work this out with an investor before they accept the investmernt.

The internet hasn't really changed that much from the .com bubble days. Doesn't help that there is a LOT of money in circulation looking for investments.

We need to remember what sustainable business model means for the people in charge at patreon though. What you describe as a sustainable business model is correct for a small independent business. What is sustainable for a venture capital fund is to have many companies attempting to grow revenue by 50% PA, not 5% PA.

For a venture capital firm investing $60m into a company and hoping for small sustainable profits isn't a sustainable business model - it's tying your money up in low growth long term investments when that's literally the opposite of what they invested for.

This may not be good for the people who use Patreon, but what you're describing isn't sustainable for Patreon.

Sustainable business is a very poor choice of words for a VC to use in this context. Your investment doctrine might require companies to pursue 10X growth or die trying, but... that means your investment model is not about sustainability (of the businesses you invest in). The businesses could be perfectly sustainable.

A startup is not necessarily guided by sustainability. Amazon lost money for decades. FB never bothered to make money until their IPO. They were not pursuing sustainability at those points. They were betting on growth.

And Cheers was near the bottom of the ratings its first season. Today low ratings gets you canceled after 6 episodes or fewer.

Good things often take a while to take root. VCs aren't interested in that noise.

It isn't sustainable for Patreon's investors. It could be sustainable for Patreon itself. The 5% cut sounds like a reasonable amount of money to build and run a company.

> People forgot what "sustainable business model" even means. It does not mean "infinite growth"

actually, it does. If you want to keep the same revenue, you need to grow because everything around you keeps becoming more and more expensive - taxes, etc

Not true. You can remain profitable forever, without growing your revenue. For example, a business with 10 million in revenues and 9 million in expenses can exist 'forever'. They don't need to grow their revenue. Of course, if your revenue is not growing, it's a bad sign.

A sustainable business can have 10 million revenues and 10 millions expenses. Expenses contain the salaries of all people employed. As long as the salaries make for a good living for everyone involved that's good enough if you don't have investors that want to extract profits.

You'll still want a bit of a rainy-day fund to cover unexpected losses and you'll want sufficient growth to cover inflation. Not growing beyond that is not necessarily a bad sign, it may be a conscious decision. Growth brings its own kinds of problems, stability has its own appeal.

A business without any capital investments (tools, inventory, human capital, your "rainy-day fund") isn't much of a business at all. As long as you're tying up capital in the business you need to justify that investment by turning an accounting profit; otherwise the business is losing money compared to what could have been earned by investing the same resources in some other venture.

Economic profit, which factors in opportunity cost, does tend toward zero. A sustainable business can exist with no economic profit or loss, but the accounting profits would be in line with standard market rates of return.

Of course, if the business's investors are also its employees (as is often the case for small, privately-held businesses) then any accounting profits can be distributed in the form of salaries... but in that case the investor-employees will expect higher salaries than they would receive as mere employees elsewhere.

Keeping up with inflation does not count as growth. Growth or decline should be calculated in terms of purchasing power (inflation-adjusted dollars), not raw currency.

> but in that case the investor-employees will expect higher salaries than they would receive as mere employees elsewhere.

Is that necessarily so? They can just as well decide that being in control of their work justifies a lower wage than market rate. After all, it’s their business.

As usual, the caveat "all else being equal" applies. They should expect a higher salary than they would receive elsewhere in a position with a similar degree of job satisfaction and other non-salary factors. But you're right, a lower salary / return on investment might be acceptable in exchange for a greater degree of control.

The same goes for non-employee investors, of course; one might hold shares in a company (or more commonly, a co-op) not for any direct financial benefit but rather as a way to influence how the organization is run.

> For example, a business with 10 million in revenues and 9 million in expenses can exist 'forever'

but that's what I'm saying : at equal amount of work, expenses keep increasing in time.

You have a misunderstanding of inflation. The company can increase it's prices at the pace of inflation and in real terms nothing will change.

Technology also becomes cheaper over time, and efficiencies can be exploited both of which which can offset some of the other expenses that grow and at the very least lengthen the runway substantially.

That doesn't make sense. If inflation is causing your expenses to increase, your prices will need to be increased accordingly.

Stuff doesn't naturally get more expensive in constant dollars. In fact, except for labor, and very limited resources, it usually gets cheaper over time.

Patreon will fail and thankfully it will be purely down to the marketplace.

You see the marketplace does not have the same ideology as Patreon.

> More than $1 billion will be paid out to creators since the company's inception in 2013.

Patreon does not pay out (it's own money) to creators, although they act like they do. They are merely a middle man. That's it. However, Patreon sees themselves as some sort of moral compass policing the internet and choosing whether or not to payout to a creator whether or not they have broken their terms of service.

Now that other competitors like bitPatreon and SubscribeStar have come into view and actively taking payments on-behalf of creators that would otherwise not be allowed to under Patreon. This will be seen as the start of a shift for creators overall.

One last thing. Last I heard, Patreon has over 140 employees. Seriously, for what. Fraud should be down to Stripe. Paying out, again to Stripe. Their platform could be built over a week using Vue.

Oh right, those 140 employees. It's for policing the content creators... I gotcha.

Needless to say. I'm not happy about this situation. Maybe I'll do something about it.

The vast majority of Patreon's user base (the artists getting patronage) are not producing anything that would get booted off of Patreon for. In order to compete, bitPatreon and SubscribeStar will have to compete on attracting Patreon's artists off Patreon.

(FTR, I'm mildly certain that many artists on Patreon might even find the policing of the Patreon platform to be a positive, because it means their name isn't associated with the names of people they find reprehensible. I'm concerned that alternatives such as bitPatreon and SubscribeStar will quickly gain the reputation of being a platform for people whose beliefs are considered reprehensible elsewhere, which automatically makes it difficult to market those alternatives.)

But some of those artists are rightly concerned that Patreon has that kind of power. I don't want the phone company to restrict who I can call, even if I never would call the "criminals" they block me from calling. There are others who are supporters of the banned topic even though their particular bit of art doesn't actually have anything to do with the banned topic.

I don't know how many will leave, but I don't like the idea of a company choosing morality and so I won't support anyone on patreon. If an artists wants my support they won't get it on Patreon (fair notice, so far I have not supported any artists in other ways - who knwos if this will change)

I'm not sure the comparison to the phone company is very applicable. This would be the case if Patreon would be a pure payments proessor, like Mastercard or Visa (or maybe Stripe). But Patreon provides pages on their own website within their own brand identity for these creators, stores their digital media, promotes them through their search interface etc.

In my opinion, Patreon is more akin to a newspaper deciding which ads to show next to their articles or to a shopping mall deciding which shops to rent space to. And of course every newspaper will reject ads that would infuriate their readers (or journalists) and shopping malls will not rent to businesses that might damage their reputation (depending on how "upscale" it is this might be everything from soup kitchens over gambling outfits and payday lenders to brothels).

Now, you might disagree with them whether they have drawn the right line there and consequently take your business elsewhere (just as you might not want to visit a shopping mall with the wrong mix of shops), but I find it a bit of a stretch to frame this as a "free speech" issue.

How is it not comparable... When it comes down to money transfer, imagine if you are the one blacklisted by Visa and Mastercard... now you suddenly cannot make online payments, oops, you also can't even have a bank account at a major bank.

Things like this are in fact happening. From people who've used a bitcoin exchange connected to their Chase bank account to people that are a bit too right leaning for those at Patreon, regardless of where those opinions are expressed. While they allow similar language with a different bent on their actual platform.

When the gatekeepers of money start acting as censors, is that really not as bad or worse than the telephone company doing the same?

> Patreon provides pages on their own website within their own brand identity for these creators, stores their digital media, promotes them through their search interface etc

Which is exactly the kind of useless functionality that they don't need. Most of the creators I've seen either migrate away from Patreon or diversify themselves end up using payment processing services like Stripe or Paypal.

> Which is exactly the kind of useless functionality that they don't need.

So says you, yet the vast majority of people I subscribe to on Patreon use it as a delivery platform for advance content to subscribers. One of the major ways it promotes higher donation amounts is by letting those people have gated access to content. How else would this be easily accomplished except for this "useless" functionality? A single password that is handed out? A large list of passwords that the artist needs to manage?

It quickly becomes obvious that this useless functionality has a very real use case, and I think it's in fact one of the drivers of high donation rates in some cases.

Interestingly, I've found this doesn't work equally well for all media. Digital artists, webcomic people, etc. can often use patreon as a way to give fans access to unsellable WIPs. Similarly, writers will use patreon as a way to display trunk stories (although in this case patreon is a draw through its network effects more than it is the genuine best place to do this).

I'm not arguing for or against censorship in any particular manner. Merely that if SubscribeStar/bitPatreon want to compete with Patreon they will have to appeal to more than freedom of speech moral stance, since the majority of Patreon's artists are already either within Patreon's moral stance, benefit from the moral stance, or do not apply to this matter entirely.

"Our service is where we make sure only good guys are, our competition is only used by literal child eating nazis"

No cartel in mankinds history has enjoyed this type of competitive advantage, good job SV :)

Just like voat cloning reddit. When the main draw is that you wont be censored it ends up drawing only the worst groups who have been censored or legitimately fear it. Pretty soon the clone is just a cesspool that the vast majority of users want nothing to do with.

This is why I think the Mastodon-like federated networks are better for these kinds of things. The majority of Mastodon users are Japanese because lolicon isn't permitted in Twitter, but you can still safely ignore those users because of Mastodon's federated nature.

You also ignore groups of users on reddit, just don't go to the subreddit.

Same thing for creators on Patreon.

> The vast majority of Patreon's user base (the artists getting patronage) are not producing anything that would get booted off of Patreon for.

Impossible to tell since it's decided on a case by case basis, not a set of hard rules that are simply equally applied.

edit: gotta love how this is instantly downvoted, but not challenged.


> bitPatreon and SubscribeStar will have to compete on attracting Patreon's artists off Patreon

They won't have to when Patreon actively tries to shove them away themselves.

See my other note about bitPatreon and SubscribeStar gaining the reputation as being platform explicitly for people with "reprehensible" viewpoints that Patreon is rejecting. If those platforms gain those reputations, it'll be very hard to compete with Patreon.

Another way to look at it is that Patreon is quickly becoming the platform of "fuck you, got mine" and "I didn't hear nobody getting silenced", joining the ranks of Twitter, Facebook, Google et al. 99 guilty people do not excuse one innocent person being just shrugged off unless you're prepared to get silenced in their place -- and serious artists with serious things to say about serious stuff don't do it. Mass appeal and money are one thing, in my heart of hearts I only care about the judgement of artists I respect. People want to knock themselves off my "artistic roll call" like that, they're absolutely welcome.

If you know how to run a company which raises 1 billion, why not set up your own? :)

Jokes aside, once you become such a big company it is not as easy as we might think, these are investors money, not your company, and you do what they say...

> these are investors money, not your company, and you do what they say...

100% agreed.

It didn't raise 1B, it processed 1B in payments since inception.

I can transfer €10 from my bank account to any European bank account at no cost in real time.

You can't really do that in the US so Patreon has to exist. Like the only alternative is mailing a check. And god only knows when a world wide banking system will be realized.

Then why don't at least people in the EU simply get a bank account for such donations? Outside of charities, I don't recall seeing that on websites or elsewhere, really. Why is that? Did it just not occur to anyone yet, or is it maybe a legally thorny issue? How do banks feel about it? I sometimes wonder about this, and I assume there's gotta be reasons, but I don't actually know.

There's clearly multiple valid reason not to:

- Donations can come from all over the world.

- It's easier to simply subscribe on Patreon while you are already logged in, than doing the 4-5 steps necessaries to do a bank transfer (there's a reason Amazon invested so much into 1 click ordering, the least friction you get, the more transactions you get).

- A subscription is also recurrent, which represent much more money (I'm sure most bank allow recurrent transfer, but it's a choice and not the default one).

- Patreon allow "private" publication to the one that donate, which allow them to offer incentive to donate (mostly it's early access or exclusive content).

How? I am stuck with 3 days for international transfers unless I use a 3rd party service with sketchy terms of use.

Devs and devops/sysadmin, HR, accounting, marketing & product, cleaning staff maybe, sales, support (international I would guess so more people), managers, headcount can grow fast.

Of course as developers we think that a lot of those other positions are unnecessary :)

So what content creators have been denied service?

There was a big controversy over Sargon being suspended, and this has prompted some other high-profile creators to leave the platform.



From the link:

> “I just can’t be bothered with people who chose to treat me like this. It’s really annoying. Like, I — . You’re acting like a bunch of ns, just so you know. You act like white ns. Exactly how you describe black people acting is the impression I get dealing with the Alt Right. I’m really, I’m just not in the mood to deal with this kind of disrespect.”

> “Look, you carry on, but don’t expect me to then have a debate with one of your fgots.…Like why would I bother?…Maybe you’re just acting like a nr, mate? Have you considered that? Do you think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another, and you guys can’t even act like white people, it’s really amazing to me.”

IIRC the context of that tirade was that he was complaining about the literal white supremacists who harass him - and was directing their language back at them. (Supposedly it was also those white supremacists who reported him to Patreon) Major tactical error here, but I can't entirely disagree with the sentiment. Attacking someone with their own stated beliefs is something I'm a big fan of.

"sounds like"

So you have not gone to the trouble of listening to him before commenting?

Was he asked to apologize for it?


True, but do you want to do business with a company that an enforce morality like that?

I'll do business with whoever offers the best terms at the lowest risk to me. If my business is ranting online about the political wedge issue of the day and e-panhandling, I'd avoid Patreon.

Yes, absolutely.


OK, but our First Amendment allows Nazis to speak freely in this country. No one likes that, except the Nazis, but does that make us all collaborators?

It allows them to speak without legal repercussions from the government. The first amendment doesn't say "Patreon has to allow any hateful dipshit to use their service"

You're reading me completely backwards. If Patreon are collaborators for allowing Nazis to use their platform, then are we collaborators for allowing Nazis to have free speech in our country?

If the answer to the first is "yes", then why is the answer to the second "no"?

https://xkcd.com/1357/ doesn't mean patreon has to host it

I never suggested it did.

You did though, by invoking the first amendment, which really doesn't apply in this context.


When I was a kid, growing up, I recall when the "moral majority" (umbrella term describing the coalition of various protestant groups), and they decided right and wrong, and had the power to a large degree, to shove that down other people's throats. Everything was closed on Sundays, dry counties (no alcohol sales), various conservative dress/grooming/self-expression conventions.

They have mostly lost this influence and power, only to be replaced by something equally distasteful, your explanation not withstanding. You sound exactly like the supporters. Sure the details differ, but you've nailed down the "ends justify the means" spin, just like every other movement that wants to push their world view and morality. The kicker is the whole "it's not enforcing morality" or defending a world view schtik. It's deciding not to do business with various groups of people, under pressure from other groups of people. As a JFK democrat, and individual, I say fuck that. Good riddance.

I'm sorry, this is ridiculous.

Patreon runs a business. You'd force them to do business with people they have no desire to do business with. You're the authoritarian in that picture. There's no reason to think that there's any mysterious group forcing Patreon to act.

I'm neither of the right nor the left, this is a choice of the business, they chose not to do business with someone being actively hateful. Not someone taking a political stance, but someone spewing out prejudice, hatred and bile. I fully support them.

(I cannot reply to the below, being rate limited. The cake thing is discrimination on who someone is, not what they do. Different things. And this is hardly a freedom of speech issue, nobody is denying them the ability to express themselves, I am not obligated to bring you lemonade and let you shout hatred from my front yard in the name of FoS. )

I don't think anyone is calling for forcing Patreon to do anything. They are just looking for an alternative that doesn't behave like Patreon.

It's like Free Speech. You can't just allow free speech for things you want to hear or it's not free.

Patreon has chosen to not allow free speech, and it's their right as a private entity to do that. The market should decide whether or not to support this principle.

Another company could come along and say that they won't discriminate against people based on political ideology or anything like that, and a lot of people would support that, even if it means the company would be helping projects they find offensive.

Why do all the Freedom Speeches™ zealots ignore all the other rights, such as freedom of association?

Obviously someone hasn't thought this through.

If you can discriminate against someone based on their political views, or even ... "something they once said" -which seems to be the substance of all this patreon deplatforming and nazi-calling, you can do so based on their race, sexual habits, color of their shirt, gender, religious identity, ethnicity, cut of their jib, or what city they live in. So, like, welcome to the legal arguments used by "whites only" restaurants and hotels in the south under segregation.

FWIIW someone like Ron Paul who is a "freedom speeches zealot" agrees with you that the whole public accommodation thing violates the rights of businesses.

Uh huh. Because I'm a moron.

Freedom Speeches™ is just like weaponizing the 14th amendment (equal protection clause) to protect corporations. I have to tolerate racists, pedophiles, rapists, thieves because corporatists have feelings too.

When we have to tolerate intolerance, everything falls apart.

"So, like, welcome to the legal arguments used by "whites only" restaurants and hotels in the south under segregation."

Uh huh.

Punching up vs punching down. It's about the power imbalance. These specious false equivalence arguments always ignore the context.

When Freedom Markets™ zealots (like Ron Paul) weaponize the Bill of Rights, it's in the service of corporations, not people.

Lastly, you're equating intrinsic traits (gender, ethnicity) with learned behavior (hate, intolerance). Nice.

PS- WTF is "deplatforming"? The SJWs definitely don't have a monopoly on learned victimhood.

"Punching up/down" is not a legal principle; thank goodness, though it sure looks like Patreon is punching down at marginal figures. Nor are "intrinsic traits" any kind of legal principle. Nor are religions, ethnies, language choice, sexual habits, anything any more intrinsic than political beliefs, not that this matters as a legal principle.

Your views as to what is good or bad are not absolute, and, I hate to break it to you, there is no legal principle behind them other than that which used to back up blasphemy laws. We decided as a society in the 1960s that there's no such thing as blasphemy, and that providing a public accommodation means you have to serve everyone who isn't violating the law.

Yes I agree with you, people like you and Ron Paul attempt to weaponize civil rights at the service of corporations, not people. Look at you telling me that Patreon has every right to deny service to people you disagree with. I'm pretty sure if they denied service to, say, atheists, you'd change your mind!

Update: I'm going to change my answer.

Corporations are people and have the right to speech, above all else, when it serves the plutocrats, hate mongers.

But they're godless oppressors of free speech whenever they refuse to serve haters, thieves.

Which is it?

Pick a side.



Patreon is protecting its brand. No different than Apple, Disney/ABC, Hobby Lobby, reddit, Hillsong. What you'd call "discrimination", because apparently there's a shortage of outlets for hate speech.

I also noted that brands are a proxy for trust. If Patreon bans haters, that's a signal to me that they are the kind of people I want to do business with.

Whereas I'm voting with my dollars. If I disagree with Patreon's choices, I simply don't do business with them. What the Freedom Markets™ call the market place of ideas.

But apparently I'm not allowed to make such choices for myself. Because Freedom Speeches™. My bad.


Look at you, telling me that there are no ethics, morality. Just what's legal vs illegal. Aka might makes right, dog eat dog.

I am on the side of the post 1960s consensus in the US. Corporations which serve the public must continue to serve the public, without arbitrary tyrannies on things like political beliefs or sexual practices, or face civil rights lawsuits. If you can make a christian baker bake you a gay cake, you can make Patreon work with ... pretty much anyone. That's what we've been doing post civil rights and post legalization of pornography. Seemed fine with most people!

If you want a might makes right world, which, whether you're capable of understanding it or not, is what you're advocating for, you should at least figure out which side has the guns and tanks. Pretty sure it ain't Patreon censors!

Hold on a sec, that's my argument.

I'm not being clear enough.

Those who insist corporations are people, but then get grumpy when corporations act like people, are hypocrites. Or worse.

All I'm saying is that so long as corporations are people, I will continue to vote with my dollars. (Call it a reverse boycott.)

We might be on the same side here. If so, my bad.

I'm on the "no censorship by corporations" side.

As I said, if some schmuck (an individual business owner) has to bake a cake with a message he profoundly disagrees with, because not doing so violates someone else's civil rights, Patreon (an actual corporation) can suck it up and allow people to make contributions to people who use harsh language on youtube. It's really quite simple.

> welcome to the legal arguments used by "whites only" restaurants

You don't control your gender, you don't control your sexual orientation, you don't control your race, you don't control where you are born, etc...

Theses aren't the same as being a Nazi, which you certainly control. You decide to push racist propaganda. You aren't born with that speech, you chose to do it. You chose to hurt people with that speech.

That guy that was removed from Patreon is free to use another platform for its hate speech and use Patreon for something without hate. You can't simply change your skin color to be able to go to a "whites only" restaurants.

Would you mind if instead Patreon was removing videos showing a murder? What about child pornography? I'm curious to know where's your line.

I have no idea what you're trying to say.

And that's fine! Great even.

"You do you" as people say these days :)

I'm not arguing that these folks shouldn't be able to say their piece, and shouldn't be able to get contributions from their followers, however hateful and misguided

Just that the likes of Patreon are under no obligation to help them out.

Of course not. I never said anything to the contrary.

> You'd force them to do business with people they have no desire to do business with.

We're allowed to do that as a society. Or do you not want same sex couples to be able to get a cake? (half /s)

> but someone spewing out prejudice, hatred and bile.

This is called freedom of speech. Hate speech is still protected speech (at least in the US).


Most of my consumption is virtue signaling. I actively seek out curation matching my values.

Certified fair trade, organic, wild caught, living wages, journalism with actual fact checking & double sourcing, local & family run, etc.

Of course, I have to make exceptions. For example: Home Depot is always my last choice, after my other options have been exhausted.

PS- It's just branding as a proxy for trust.

PPS- I'm SO SORRY for exercising my right to freedom of association, aka voting with my dollars, which must always be subsumed by Freedom Markets™ and the obligation to respect all opinions equally. Because corporatists have feelings too.

If I was an artist I wouldn't want to risk my livelyhood on the assumption that nobody objected to what I did.

Piss Christs; naked statues; slaughtering a horse (in public) to protest the Vietnam war; putting ones shit in cans and sell those; etc are all things that artists have done that pisses people of.

Heck in the US you could be called an arse (or worse) if you salute the flag or if you don't.

They may still be able to legally ban them, political opinions (so long as they are not caused by a religious mandate) is not a protected class (though looking at how devided the US is, that maybe the end result), but given that a big target marked for your business is artists, why would you?

A big part of what makes art good is taking risks. Safe art (e.g. Thomas Kinkade) is kind of boring (which is not to say it isn't enjoyable on its own terms).

Yeah, he seems to be a pretty hateful, nasty person based on what has been reported, though I’ll admit I’ve never watched / listened to any of his stuff. I think the concern is that if Patreon becomes a sort of moral police, then it gives them huge power over the purse-strings of creators. Sam Harris and others don’t like that idea, for understandable reasons. Sam and Joe Rogan and others get labeled “alt-right” a lot by people who don’t like the discussions they’re willing to have.

The problem is that even after removing oneself from patreon, there is still a large company in charge of one’s payments ... a credit card company. Would Visa or MasterCard do the same under heavy social media or political pressure? Probably. So how would someone effectively mitigate this funding threat? Cryptocurrency maybe, if it was more stable and widely used.

They can tell the faithful to send a check to a PO box. Works for televangelists, no reason it wouldn't work for 'thought leaders'.

Like hanklazard mentioned, Sargon was banned, but this had ripples that effected a lot of non-controversial creators. People closed their accounts due to him being banned, and I remember Tim Pool (independent journalist) complaining that he lost around half of his patreons when this happened. He was pissed.

Naomi Wu, who's a really cool maker out of Shenzhen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Wu

In case folks are wondering why, she doxxed a journalist.

Which was a shitty thing to do. On the other hand, it was right after they sent a crew to China to interview her, and asked questions about her relationships & sexuality after they had explicitly agreed not to. Which is also a shitty thing to do. But guess which of them lost most of their income, and which of them ended up as an editor at the New York Times?

I think the most recent flashpoint was the deplatforming of Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin). He accused white supremacists of acting like "white niggers" on a youtube livestream. In context, I think he meant this as an ironic insult. According to Patreon, this violated their rules on hate speech and they closed his account.

This caused a backlash; some believed the account closure was politically motivated (Sargon is an anti-feminist, pro gamergate commentator). Some have also found it alarming that Patreon has essentially decided to police their speech in general (e.g. comments made in a youtube video, in a tweet etc.), rather than just on their own site. A number of prominent content creators have closed down their accounts in response, stating they can't trust Patreon to not deplatform them in the future for some perceived infraction. Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson are probably the most prominent of these (13th and 16th highest patron counts respectively). Here's what Sam Harris said:

"As many of you know, the crowdfunding site Patreon has banned several prominent content creators from its platform. While the company insists that each was in violation of its terms of service, these recent expulsions seem more readily explained by political bias. Although I don’t share the politics of the banned members, I consider it no longer tenable to expose any part of my podcast funding to the whims of Patreon’s 'Trust and Safety' committee."

And here's a NYT article on the issue: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/24/technology/patreon-hate-s...


I think if it were actual Nazis - i.e. people that promote a new holocaust against anyone other than white people, etc etc then I don't think people would have a problem.

Unfortunately, the term has become so devalued that "Nazi" means "Anyone that supports Trump".

What do you think is the end goal of Trump's "Muslim Ban"?

Well for starters, he hasn't banned people on the basis of their religion, but from the state they come from.

I would imagine the purpose would be the same as when Obama implemented a similar ban - prevent terrorism.


As soon as people start rolling out "free speech" in a conversation about business policy the entire conversation is lost.

Free speech does not apply to private business. Enforcing free speech to a private business is closer to a form of government oppression than it is freedom.

The United States has done a great job of brainwashing its population to think that "freedom" is universally the best thing. It's not. In many scenarios freedom actually comes from oppressing someone else (and it's no surprise that oppression is basically the cornerstone of the United States).

There are just about zero websites out there that adhere to truly "free" speech because it's nearly impossible. Doubly so if you want to make a profit. Even 4chan has rules about what you can say there, believe it or not.

> Even 4chan has rules about what you can say there, believe it or not.

Hmm. AFAIK the only thing forbidden on 4chan is child porn because that's outlawed really really everywhere and will drive anyone away.

Furry porn will also get you banned there. There's things 4Chan has strict rules against.

Wild isn't it?

You can easily get banned for simply posting something in the wrong place.

I think considering it an actual belief in "free speech" is giving them too much credit. It's a shield the hateful hide behind, that's all. The people screaming loudest about free speech are more than happy to shut down the rights of others.

> The people screaming loudest about free speech are more than happy to shut down the rights of others.

Do you have an example of this?

Just try to make a comment that's even somewhat balanced in /r/politics, which is a cesspool of intolerant lefties who can't stand any disagreement or debate.

Note, this is not /r/liberalpolitics, or /r/progressivepolitics, but /r/politics, and yet it is an extremely one-sided exercise in herd behavior.

Check the heavy handed moderation on subreddits like the /r/conservative and /r/the_donald.

The former has many threads that are marked "conservatives only" which auto delete any comments from anyone not tagged as conservative by mods. t_d will just delete your comments and ban you if you dare to speak out against Trump.

And all this is not even counting the downvotes you get for speaking your mind in rightwing or alt right places.

You're 100% right and as an American I'm proud that you can't be jailed for saying something stupid. Free speech has several restrictions in the US, and anyone who says it is "totally unrestricted" is simply showing their ignorance of the actual restrictions in place.

Inciting violence with your speech is a crime, and all the free speech in the world will not protect you from the backlash from private citizens and organizations. It just means the government can't lock you in a cage for saying something idiotic like "the Holocaust never happened."

> Inciting violence with your speech is a crime

Only if you go ahead and openly shout "kill that Jew", for example. The hidden ways to incite hatred in the masses with speech are perfectly legal, most of these even in Europe.

> It just means the government can't lock you in a cage for saying something idiotic like "the Holocaust never happened."

Denying the Holocaust is not just idiotic, it is an outright denial of provable facts and an immense disrespect to all the victims of the gas ovens at Auschwitz and the other KZs.

In Germany, Holocaust denial is expressly forbidden by law for the latter reason.

> Denying the Holocaust is not just idiotic, it is an outright denial of provable facts and an immense disrespect to all the victims of the gas ovens at Auschwitz and the other KZs.

Even more than that, it contributes to creating an atmosphere where it could happen again. Simply existing as a Nazi or white supremacist is a call for violence, and silencing them is justified self defense.

Isn't the whole crux of this discussion whether or not "immense disrespect" should be enough to jail someone?

Denying provable facts shouldn't be a crime, it should label you as an idiot. Being disrespectful shouldn't be a crime, it should label you as an asshole. I don't want to live in a world where being an asshole and an idiot is enough to get you put in prison.

If this is true (which I might be willing to concede), then should the same standard not be applied equally to anyone who self-identifies as a communist in today's world? Simply existing as a communist might be a call to repeat the same mistakes of the 20th century (and 21st century, because they're ongoing), which are in no way less horrific than the mistakes of fascism.

Silencing has the opposite effect to what you wanted. It's the Streisand Effect. Your act of censorship only serves as arsenal for the people you are censoring, because they can point at it and say "look, if they didn't have anything to hide, they wouldn't restrict us from talking about it."

This is why I won't call for silencing communists, even though I vehemently disagree with their ideology. I have a bit more faith that humans can recognize bad ideas themselves and do not need to be told what to think.

I'm not going to give any credence to the moronic belief that both "extremes" are fascist. Communism is a far-left ideology based on public ownership of the means of production, there is nothing inherently violent about it.

Please explain the process by which the means of production passes from private ownership to public ownership WITHOUT coercion via threat of force/violence or actual usage of force.

Unicorn farts. Unicorn farts will make people willingly give up what they own in order to watch it be squandered and wasted.

Same way your taxes are taken you dork. Or do you square up with the FBI every April?

If the IRS was literally going to confiscate his whole salary and property he might have a different view. I expect you might as well.

1. Income taxes != capital asset confiscation, especially as taxes are not anywhere near 100%. The closest thing we have to that is civil asset forfeiture, perpetrated at the state and local levels. Note that civil asset forfeiture is increasingly being challenged by the courts as Unconstitutional.[1]

2. Do you know what happens when you DON'T pay your taxes? The government exercises its monopoly on violence and throws you in jail. If this tax analogy is the best your mind could conjure up to prove "communism is non-violent", your thought process is just as much of an unsurprising failure as every other Communist implementor to come before you.


> Please explain the process by which the means of production passes from private ownership to public ownership WITHOUT coercion via threat of force/violence or actual usage of force.

Well, if it's coercive, it's no more coercive than capitalism, which likewise relies on state use and threat of force to defend it's model of property rights.

You are comparing people defending their own property to people stealing other people's property.

Fortunately, humanity came to agreement about which of these two were acceptable at the dawn of civilization. Stealing is not acceptable, and property rights are essential for freedom. Capitalism does not rely on any "state" to enforce violence. It requires that people go about their lives without interfering with other people's lives except through mutually beneficial trade. States have developed as a means for people to collectively secure their freedom to cooperate in this way so that they don't need to be constantly under the threat of invasion from cavemen who do not share any of those values.

Of course, I am willing to concede that states do not have impeccable records when it comes to utilizing its violence - but if anything, this only adds to the argument for small government. Big government has more resources to squander on wars and less ability for the constituents it purports to represent to have any effect on its policies. A communist government is the biggest form of government you can get. It is also unaccountable, because you can't vote them out.

Ultimately, while regressive thinkers exist, there exists a need for people to collectively pool their resources to defending their freedoms and their properties from those who would like to steal and enslave them.

> You are comparing people defending their own property to people stealing other people's property.

No, I'm comparing people forcibly, by way of the state, defining property one way and depriving people who disagree with that definition of what the dissenters see as their property rights to people forcibly, by way of the state, defining property a different way and depriving people who disagree with that other definition of what this other set of dissenters see as their property rights.

That you happen to prefer the capitalist model of property rights doesn't change the fact that it is imposed with state violence on those who disagree with it's parameters.

> Fortunately, humanity came to agreement about which of these two were acceptable at the dawn of civilization.

Humanity did not come to a universal consensus on a model of property rights at the dawn of civilization, and various models of property rights have gained and lost popularity in the intervening time with many (including as recent examples, but not limited to, the Leninist Communist model and the capitalist model) having been imposed through state force at various times and places.

> Simply existing as a communist might be a call to repeat the same mistakes of the 20th century, which are in no way less horrific than the mistakes of fascism.

Communism in itself does not imply violence towards minorities or putting people into Gulags. Nazism or fascism always does, the demonization of those not in the "Volkskörper" (or deemed too weak to be worthy) is the core ideology.

While I agree that autoritarian Communism has failed and those who still adore Stalin are morons, there are many more Communist views that do not resort to authoritarianism.

Communism implies violence against anybody who does not wish to have the fruits of their labour stolen from them by the state. If people had the choice as to whether or not they can keep the wealth they generated, or to give it up "for the greater good," then which option do you think most people would take if they were not under threat of violence?

This is why communism simply cannot work. If you give people choice, it turns out they generate wealth not only for themselves - but they generate wealth for the societies in which they live too. This is what Adam Smith calls the invisible hand. Free markets economies are prosperous because people's self-interest leads to innovation and improved standard of living for everyone.


Communism is rooted in jealousy. Even though people owe their standard of living to the merits of the capitalists which built their societies, they're bitter because they are not among the most wealthy. It is no surprise that there are now countless examples of it being tried in the real world and it leading to all around suffering. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" is always going to be controlled by bitter people, and they're going to use their newly found powers to extract wealth in attempt to cure their own bitterness.

> Simply existing as a Nazi or white supremacist is a call for violence, and silencing them is justified self defense.

It's very easy to make the same argument for Muslims. Yes, there are millions of peaceful Muslims in the U.S., but their religion dictates that they need to conquer and subjugate infidels. There's 1400 years of history to back that up. It is absolutely arguable that just existing as a Muslim is a call for violence.

Should we ban them as well?

What about "Antifa", who exist entirely to wreak violence on people they disagree with, and even do it with impunity. If we should ban Nazis and white supremacists, we need to ban Antifa as well.

I'm just trying to apply your principles consistently.




I am sympathetic to your incredulity but you are the one that needs to realize that yes these people exist and this one is here on HN discussing his mass murder plans with you.

That's not at all what my comment says or implies, and you know that.


No it isn't, because murder is always wrong. Killing in self-defense is not murder. Killing Nazis was a matter of self-defense. Murdering them would not be.


pc86 on Feb 6, 2019 [flagged]

Well when you say something like "silencing someone by any means necessary based solely on their beliefs is justifiable" I think it's fair to make sure you know that you're literally advocating killing people based not on their actions, or even their words, but their thoughts.

I think this is an example where continental Europe differs from the UK. Although we have strong libel laws, the presumption I would hope is still closer to that put forward by JS Mill in On Liberty.

Lot's of people are basically asking why Patreon ever needed $60m VC money and why couldn't it have just emerged into a sustainable little platform for creators. I think the answer is here:

>The new capital will go towards hiring to expand its 80 person team and scaling up growth by recruiting more creators including videographers, political pundits, game developers, illustrators, musicians, and comedians.

Patreon was doing a Netflix. Patreon is a platform and it needs content on it's platform to draw people in. So it used the $60m to bribe creators to sign up. Without that $60m someone else could very easily have created the same platform, bought all the big content creators and squished Patreon over night. It was about establishing their network effect.

Now they've effectively done that, they're the defacto place for this. So now they need to extract value from the position they're in. It makes perfect sense to me. It's not great for consumers - it's basically buying a network effect driven monopoly, but isn't that basically 80% of what silicon valley is doing today?

>Patreon was doing a Netflix. [...] So it used the $60m to bribe creators to sign up.

I haven't seen Patreon do this. Can you link to stories where Patreon has paid for original content creation similar to how Netflix/Amazon/HBO funds original content?

$60 million would be a very tiny warchest to pay for producing original content.

I think the $60 million (~$100 million total) is being used to expand the platform's services for creators' such as backoffice and ecommerce. I wrote in more detail about that strategy in my other comment.

This seems weird to me. Patreon isn't really a platform, at least it isn't considered as such by any of the people I patronize. Their platform is youtube, or software. Patreon is just a way they get their work funded by people like me. As was shown during patreon's last big fuck-up, it is pretty easy for people to pack up shop and get their money through some other channel.

I believe Naomi Wu (@RealSexyCyborg) would beg to differ - I think she only managed to get 300/800 patreon subscribers to follow her to subscribestar (before it got eaten by the culture wars)

300/800 isn't a meaningful statistic. What percentage of her funding did that account for?

Even if it's 75% of revenue on only that 37.5% of patrons, that still means it's not "pretty easy" to move to another service without taking a massive hit in revenue. Don't underestimate the network effects at play for something like this.

How is this a network effect? It's just inertia - it's inconvenient for the patrons to move their accounts.

Except if they have other people they patronise on patreon, they aren't looking at moving their accounts, they're looking at creating an extra one.

And people leaving patreon entirely is often even worse because they often do so over a boycott by a well known account, in the process depriving lower tier creators they previously supported on there of revenue.

That doesn't mean they're not a platform, just that they're a platform with very limited lock-in effects.

(I like Patreon, but I kind of agree with this)

it is pretty easy for people to pack up shop and get their money through some other channel.

Maybe they're looking 'solve' this by offering to be the content creators distribution platform as well. I Imagine they could structure it like they'll take a lower commission if you also use their platform.

Judging by the amount of emails I get form them I think a good portion of those new people are part of their Creator Growth team (or whatever they call it). In the last year there has been a huge increase in Patreon created content trying to make creators better at getting more patrons.

Yup. Patreon is a Series C company. If you take that amount of money, your strategy becomes Grow Or Die.

If they had bootstrapped, they'd be totally sustainable on a hundredth of the revenue.

I get it though. When Patreon started it was not clear whether the model would work AT ALL. It could have easily just eaten Jack Conte's savings and he would've been a 30 year old eating ramen for years and then end up with nothing.

In retrospect the time was right, and YouTube was the perfect ally, and it could've been easily bootstrapped. It would've been hard to know that up front.

Still, $100 Million over 5 years seems like a lot of cash burnt for what they offer. I guess we'll find out where it went when they release their "value services".

Actually, what did VC give this company that supported their growth (actual question)? I'm a little bit surprised (having not ever looked into it) that it isn't bootstrapped. I mean, you take people's money upfront and then distribute it monthly, taking a cut. All your operations costs are covered because you are paid upfront. In fact, you should be able to squeeze out even 1 or 2 percent more because you're holding on to people's money in advance. It's recurring credit card charges, so relatively easy to manage expectations of operating expenses.

Is it mostly the social media side of the business that's eating up the money (i.e., the services for allowing the creator to interact with their patrons)?

How is Librepay doing? As they are a non-profit organisation, I suppose that probably means they are boot-strapped (barring a sugar daddy somewhere). I've barely ever heard of anyone using them, so I guess growth is slow, but are they able to fund themselves without volunteers yet?

It seems weird to me that this is not a more open playing field -- especially since these guys aren't even doing payment processing internally.

Edit: As usual, I can answer some of my own questions right after I post. Here is a statement of the progress of LibrePay: https://liberapay.com/about/stats They are distributing about 1400 Euros per week now. Interestingly as of the middle of last year, they were distributing up to 4000 Euros a week, but then it precipitously dropped off (presumably because they blocks donations from certain donors... I seem to remember hearing something about that). So, it's not big enough yet to pay anybody a salary.

I wonder how much VC money was spent on marketing and promotion. You couldn't have just invented Patreon and waited for content creators to find you by going to Google and searching for "companies that serve as middlemen for people to give you patronage money". I bet marketing and promotion was/is a nontrivial percentage of expenses.

> mean, you take people's money upfront and then distribute it monthly, taking a cut.

I don't think they do that for all creators - there's a bunch who work on an "$N per item" basis and I'm assuming those are charged at the end of the month once those items have been distributed to patrons (otherwise how would you know what to charge?)

Nonetheless, I doubt Patreon pays out to creators before they're paid by patrons.

They definitely get the money before distributing it. They will also pass any payment processing delays onto the creators, which just happened at the beginning of this month.

The drop in donations is because our original payment processor backstabbed us. See https://medium.com/liberapay-blog/the-third-year-of-liberapa... and the two previous posts linked in there for details.

That really sucks. I'm sorry you went through that. What you are doing looks really great and if I get off my arse and start coding I'll probably start using your services.

If I have your ear, I'll ask you a quick question if you don't mind. I notice that you only allow donations rather than payment for some service. I'm wondering if that's due to regulatory issues for you or something else.

Quick background: I want to explore the idea of people paying for software/services in the same way that they might do with an unattended farm box in the country side. In other words, farmers often put produce in a box on the side of the road and people can freely take the produce, putting the money in a slot. There is nothing at all stopping people from just taking the produce and not paying (literally nobody but the unpaid farmer would notice), but there is a social stigma to doing so. I think there is a general understanding in the public that if you take the produce and don't leave the money that eventually the farmer will stop offering the produce. If you were starving, though, I don't think anyone would hesitate from grabbing some carrots or fruit at the side of the road (nor do I think anyone would mind overly much if it only happened occasionally).

Anyway, I want to try to recreate that idea of a farm produce box for software. The idea is that I would write some software (probably a game in my case) and make a web page. On the web page you would have 2 links: pay for software and download software. The two are not connected in any way except that the link would say "Download super game (costs $2)" or whatever.

The idea is to explicitly assign a price to the software and then just not enforce it if people don't pay. I might also have an option in the software that says something like "Pay for super game (costs $2)" which just opens the web browser to the box page. I wish to write free (as in freedom) software, so people might download the software from a different location.

I suspect that this would run afoul of your rules, so it might not be possible to use your service. Any ideas?

Edit: I should point out that in the case of LibrePay, it's a recurring weekly cost, but the idea is that the user is paying $X for a year's worth of my development, potentially paid weekly.

I rely on donations for about 30-40% of my total income, and Patreon makes up about 50% of that. But I've always been fearful of its inevitable decline for the very reasons laid out here, and I don't like putting my livelihood in the hands of a VC-backed company whose interests might not align with my own. To that end I diversified my donation-based income sources, by using LiberPay[0] and by building fosspay[1] myself, which together make up the other half of my donation income.

[0] https://liberapay.com/SirCmpwn

[1] https://github.com/ddevault/fosspay

Anyone who is in a similar boat should feel free to reach out to me and I'll happily provide free hosting for a fosspay instance. A model whose incentives align with the people who depend on it and the people who support them is crucial, and it probably isn't a business model. If necessary and useful, I'd be happy to build this into a general purpose service.

Have you made any efforts to transition your Patreon patrons to Liberapay?

No, because Liberapay is just another basket where I don't feel comfortable leaving all of my eggs. Even Liberapay has a history of problems.

What is the purpose of having this message be via dozens of tweets? Am I the only one that finds this extremely obnoxious? Just write a blog post and summarize it in one tweet.

In any case: the Patreon model seems doomed in the long run, regardless. At some point content hosters themselves (YouTube, Instagram, etc.) will introduce a similar payment support system. Just like Instagram ate Vine’s lunch and entire raison d’être. At that point, exactly what benefits or advantages does Patreon offer?

I also find it annoying. I copy the URL into threadreaderapp, and it is much clearer


It doesn't have ads, the width of the paragraphs are optimal, it supports rich content, and allows user engagement on each section.

You're right, it's impossible to have a blog without ads, with custom paragraph width, and with images and video.

To be fair it's not really worth setting up a blog just for a single post, and OP probably didn't know about things like threadreaderapp.

I am suggesting that twitter is a viable blogging platform, not that it is better or worse than any other blogging platform.

It's because Patreon's whole brand revolves around the Twitterverse/Twitch/Youtube universe. People who sponsor creators on Patreon are likely to engage much more intensively with the creators than a regular person.

This post wouldn't get a fraction of the visibility if it had been posted on some Gitgub pages blog with an RSS button.

I think it's the modern equivalent of pithy sound bites - it lets people retweet (eg quote) particular parts without any particular effort and allows for infintely scalable promotion of the poster.

That, and blogs are so last-month maaaaaan. Medium's dead, long live twitter.

If twitter becomes the primary way content is shared on the internet, I'm fucking done.

The language is insidious. "Patreon's generous 90 percent pay-out model". That Patreon takes only 10% is seen as generous when the entire model is people sending money to a creator. This is declaration that they intend to grift the patrons and creators for more money soon, because making 5% isn't "sustainable" for a service that has a few pictures and links to youtube along with money transfer.

"Patreon needs to build new businesses and new services and new revenue lines in order to build a sustainable business"

The first and last parts of that quote say it all. It's basically saying, "what you have doesn't satisfy us so go do more things."

A lot of good $50 million dollar companies have turned into $0 companies by trying to be billion dollar companies. The VC model seems to encourage this.

The problem with these sort of predictions is that they never include falsifiable criteria, which would render the entire analysis false depending on the outcome. Here's a sample quote:

"It's not going to die overnight, Patreon will still be here in 2020, it'll just be, you know, worse to actually use."

Of course it will be "worse", users tend to complain about every single product change that ever happened. No objective criteria of the worsening are provided. This is the author backtracking: "oh, contrary to what I said in the first tweet, it's not like it would die or anything, but it'll be like "worse", y'know?".

Would it be possible for a nonprofit to step in and fulfill the role Patreon plays? A company like Patreon seeems completely tangential to “endless growth” unless they’re expanding for purely infrastructure reasons..

There's https://liberapay.com/. Not sure how well it works though.

From a donor point of view, it works differently from patreon and IMO far inferior. On patreon, you sign up to a creator for a fixed amount every month. Once you've subscribed, it's like any other online subscription - every month, your card is automatically charged.

On liberapay, you have to manually fund your account in advance. If your account runs out of money, you have to log back in and top it up again.

Some people dislike automatic charges, while others don't want to be bothered with renewals, so it's best to support both. For historical reasons related to payment processor limitations Liberapay was launched with only manual renewals, but we're working on implementing automatic charges now.

See our recent blog post “The third year of Liberapay” for more details: https://medium.com/liberapay-blog/the-third-year-of-liberapa...

Thanks, I just made an account and will keep an eye on it. Looks small but great and it's sponsored by my favorite password manager "Bitwarden".

There is Drip which belongs to Kickstarter which is a Public-benefit corporation. They generated a lot of buzz about a year ago but I've never heard of them since then - not sure if they are going anywhere.

I think the biggest question here is what did Patreon even need that much money for.

I wonder about this too. The tweetstorm linked here only talks about technology, comparing Patreon to YouTube. Since Patreon handles payments, I can imagine their load on customer support, anti-fraud, abusive behavior etc is significantly higher than that of YouTube. The fact that the OP did not address this belies a simplistic view about what it's like to run a business (that and the fact that he thinks the Patreon founders could've gotten a bank loan).

At the same time, $60M? How can a platform like Patreon even begin to spend that much money? On what? I didn't understand it when Medium raised so much and I didn't understand it when Patreon did.

Basically my gist is that while this is a fun rant to read against getting VC funding, there's also a middle ground: raise reasonable amounts of VC funding. This might not always fit VC incentives perfectly, after all their business model depends on funding dozens of companies hoping that one is the next Facebook, but in the end it's your call. And hey, if you grow half speed you'll just be the next Facebook 5 years later, no man overboard.

VCs can usually veto new sources of funding but if they can force you to raise followon rounds then you've been negotiating wrong.

I think finding what a “reasonable amount” looks like is the big issue, but nevertheless that is solid advice.

Same old story. Hire a bunch of people, realize that they lack management so hire managers to manage them, splurge on a nice office, managers out of boredom or laziness hire a bunch more managers, devs start demanding better salaries or they'll walk..

But then we turn around and crap all over Gitlab for trying to pay their engineers as little as possible saying everyone deserves silicon valley salary...

Depends on your business model, in the case of Patreon it would be impossible by definition. I don't think it applies as much to GitLab.

Their workspace looks modest to me.


Seriously. The community forum does not even have search.

I found out about the forum second-hand. I don't think they even let you in before you make a certain amount.

"Sustainable" is an interesting choice of words.

What is sustainability for Toyota? It's some combination of sales volume at profit margin such that they can afford to pay for their fixed costs, factories and such. IE, earn more by selling cars than it takes to make cars.

The financial definition is derived from the business one, because debt. Car companies borrow money to build/tool factories. Toyota would need to earn a return greater than interest to be sustainable.

For a facebook (or a patreon), what does sustainability mean?

Facebook don't have factories. Costs are what the CEO decides they should be and the CEO decides based on how much revenue is coming in.

Currently, FB is on about $60bn pa. If you look at their current cost structure, even critically, you'll probably conclude that facebook needs tens of billions to be sustainable.

Except.... You obviously don't need $50bn pa to make a social networking site. If the ass fell out of online advertising (not likely), fb might collapse, but social betworking would continue to exist.

If you told patreon toda that: "your revenue is $15m forever, no matter what you do," would they conclude that patreon is unsustainable and must be shut? Toyota would. I suspect Patreon would find a way to sustain the service.

While I don't know how much Facebook needs to exist, it isn't zero. All those server have to be bought - just like Toyota can get a loan to build a new factory, facebook can get a loan to build servers and the building to put them in (note can, in both cases there are non loan options for funding as well). Facebook needs to pay people to wire all those servers up. Facebook needs to pay people to mitigate all the attacks on their servers. Facebook needs to pay power bills for those servers. The CEO doesn't get to decide any of the above costs - they are what they are and not paying them will put Facebook out of business.

The CEO can decide how much to put into new features, and what those features are. Not putting enough into R&D is a path to disaster long term.

I've been wondering why I even needed Patreon in the first place. My users who choose to donate via Paypal can choose either a one-time donation or recurring. So all I need is a supporter mailing list and blog (perhaps with member-only section) to send out updates to. And I've found that most of my users (many of whom are older and not as trendy) prefer to donate via Paypal rather than signing up for yet another service.

This model of recurring micro-payments wasn't always the norm from the outset. Patreon wasn't the first to do micro-payments nor subscriptions, but they became the de facto platform for audiences to support content creators. Banks and other financial institutions have been doing payments, micro-paymenst, and subscriptions for years via bill pay and autopay services.

It would make sense that someone like PayPal would add a monthly subscription option. They already have much of the infrastructure in place. You might not need Patreon for your subscribers to support you, but you probably wouldn't have subscribers under this model if Patreon hadn't established this as a norm.

Is this is the famous ouroboros growth model I've heard so much about?

How is Patreon not already very good "sustainable business model"? To me there is nothing better than what they have. Taking a cut for doing almost nothing. All the freemium SaaS business out there trying to break even are wishing they had the business model patreon has.

It's sustainable as far as Patreon goes. Their company is doing fine and looks like it will continue to do fine. But in the world of investing, sustainability means more than that. It means perpetual double-digit growth and other probably unrealistic expectations.

It seems to me that they have a good thing going, although I disagree with their policy of policing the content and speech of the projects they support.

However, there should be room in the market for competition and hopefully a competitor will arise who doesn't try to enforce his morality and/or politics (good or bad) on the fund-raising projects he facilitates.

That is all.

Part of the issue involved surrounding the whole content/censorship/etc controversy is that Patreon hosts content.

If they were strictly a pay-creators platform that took a percentage, it would be sustainable, they could run more efficiently, not spend money on content policing, etc.

If they still wanted to deny certain types of customers on their platform- that is their right, but their decision to also host content adds a level of complexity that when scaled, can become a problem, and probably a pretty costly one.

Now, I still don't know for sure that this makes the level of funding make more sense. Going the investing route is going to introduce a lot of expectations and changes in the way the business handles itself that could doom it- that could have been avoidable

The CEO did a thread in response: https://mobile.twitter.com/jackconte/status/1093223206805106...

I'll just say here what I said there: "You lost the plot. No one outside your VCs are asking why you struggle to scale. Everyone wants to know why you're scaling before getting the fundamentals right. You can't even manage feature #1: paying creators reliably."

The CNBC article says this and I now get why...

> "We don't allow hate speech, which other platforms say they don't as well and Patreon really means it," Conte said. "You can't just say anything you want in the world and we don't want to build that platform."

> The company also revised its content policy in 2017 to eliminate the site's use for the exchange of adult-themed photos, videos and content.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.

The thread's title points to a CNBC story by Brandon Gomez. However, the journalism is very light and is missing a lot of context about what CEO Jack Conte is talking about.

However, a better story that Dan Olson linked to (scroll down his twitter feed) is the September 2017 announcement of the $60 million round by Jack Conte himself[0]. In that blog, JC laid out in more detail the new products Patreon was trying to build to increase revenue. Excerpt of the bullet points:

1. Business Infrastructure - Think of this as the back office — the tools, workflows, dashboards, and information that you need to get your business cranking. [...] analytics [...] financials [...]

2. Rewards to Energize Patrons This is everything you need to entice and keep your patrons, [...] Actual goods, whether digital or physical, like a signed poster or an extra episode [...]

Patreon doesn't want to be just a simple "paypal/stripe" payment middleman that takes a 5% cut of subscribers payments. As a rough analogy, they also want to be a "SalesforceCRM/QuickenAccounting" backoffice and a "Amazon/WooCommerce" for merchandise -- for their creators. JC is hoping that creators will give up more than 5% (e.g. maybe 30% cut) to pay for those services.

So when people ask "what does Patreon need all that VC money for?", JC basically told you. The question remains if the creators are willing to pay for those extra "value-added" services to manage the creators' backoffice + storefront. (Examples of those "new features".[1])

I think we can assume that the bullet points laid out in JC's blog post roughly match the Powerpoint slides he showed to the VCs to convince them to invest more money. In fact, if you look at their Crunchbase profile[2], you'll notice that in the 3 rounds A & B & C, he had the same VCs repeatedly investing more money: Thrive Captial and Index Ventures in 3 of the rounds. And StartX and Accomplice in 2 out of 3 rounds.

Not only did JC convince a VC to invest more money, he convinced the same VCs multiple times.

Both JC and the investors did not think of Patreon's business as a "simply take 5% cut of payments and that's all we do forever". Maybe they will be proven wrong in expanding the Patreon platform ambitions but I think we can at least see why the $100 million investment doesn't look "illogical" to them.

[0] https://patreonhq.com/new-round-funding-816d5a592477

[1] https://blog.patreon.com/new-membership-features

[2] https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/patreon#section-fund...

This is a great use case for Ethereum and there is an excellent application live for it - gitcoin grants (https://gitcoin.co/grants/). It is really slick and defaults to use a USD pegged stablecoin (DAI).

Ugh, it's painful reading what looks like a few paragraphs or a short article, split up into tweets.

I don't work at Patreon and I don't be intimate knowledge of their problems. But I can say for sure, they have an awfully difficult problem on their hands.

The first is content. If they want to do business in Germany, they need to make sure there's no Nazi content coming from Germans. They need to make sure there's no child porn. They need to respond to DMCA notices and other types of disputes. They need to keep an eye open to ensure they're not hosting content that violates SESTA/FOSTA.

They need to be sure that creators aren't saying they're providing therapeutic ASMR audio but actually selling synthetic marijuana behind the scenes. They need to handle folks doing obviously risky (or regulated) things, like recommending pharmaceuticals or helping addicts doctor shop.

They need to comply with regional KYC/CDD requirements and verify the identities of the folks on their service. They need to do this in many languages and with local identity documents from around the world.

All of these things cost money to do, even if it's outsourced. And in many cases, the cost grows faster than user acquisition. Patreon could be criticized for censoring content, but they still need to avoid being dragged into court or even shut down. And it seems that they're learning quickly that being compliant and managing risk is not an inexpensive thing to do at scale.

> If they want to do business in Germany [...]

Does Visa have that same problem? If I understand Patreon, they aren't producing or distributing content. They are just acting as a middleman between fans and producers.

Patreon hosts content. Visa does not. Every single thing on https://visa.com is Visa's content only. Whereas every single creator's page on https://www.patreon.com/ is created by the creator.

This imposes a large moderation/liability burden that Visa doesn't have.

I'm no expert on German law, but Patreon is providing the marketplace. The user is selling access behind an identity on Patreon's site.

well, I can think of one 'product strategy' they might be tossing around but it would be a super bad idea long term. Let's just hope someone bootstraps an alternative, they can name it Parteon.

They aren't your typical average Twitter users, they're artists (although not the industry-professional kind; one is making small indie games, and the other is drawing fanart). Those small-scale artists (who are earning barely enough money for their skills) are probably gonna look down pretty harshly at the investors who seem to look at dollar signs as the ultimate goal... I guess the language is a bit harsh but I could understand.

(Maybe HN isn't that sympathetic to those type of people, so I might get downvoted to oblivion - but you still can't generalize them as average Twitter users...)

@dang/mods: please replace with https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1092846201374892032.html for readability.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact