As Bob Dylan once memorably remarked about the times, ‘When they are changing you need to look at the sustainability of your project vis a vis the funding and reward structure and make suitable changes where necessary’ Oh, wait, sorry – not *that* Bob Dylan. I meant my neighbour, Robert Dylan. He’s an accountant. That was quite misleading, sorry. What he was mostly talking about in any case were some Patreon changes for 2019.
We’ve been losing Patreon revenue pretty steadily over the past few months, to the point I am genuinely concerned that if the trend continues we’re essentially going to fizzle out within the first six months of 2019.
I appreciate the hell out of every penny that all our Patrons provide, and I know Christmas is always going to be a tough time for everyone financially. Every one is amazing for sticking with this site at a time when you have absolutely no rational reason to do so. Some patrons have left us over the past few months, and I just want to say to them too that I deeply appreciate that they funded us at all. Thank you so much!
Facts are facts though and really they lead to the conclusion that this Patreon isn’t working very well. Better than many, but that’s more a reflection on the difficulty of these kind of ongoing crowdsourcing endeavours. Our Patreon works well only in a relative analysis, not in an objective one. One where we look at ‘how other people are doing’ as opposed to ‘how much do we really need to be bringing in given the time, effort and emotional energy it all costs’. Board-gaming has a hobbyist media that, outside of a small number of prominent sites, is woefully underfunded across the (card)board – it’s only generous souls like Patrons and other donators that ensure there’s a media presence at all.
Anyway, this is a long-winded introduction to a set of Patreon changes I want to make, as well as some changes to the site itself. None of this is going to impact negatively on anyone – everyone still gets everything they currently have.
Patreon Changes 2019 – Alterations
The first of these patreon changes is that I’m going to add in tiers at the $2 and $3 level.
The $2 Tier
The $2 tier is going to get access to the Discord, which is currently very quiet but I’d like that to change. Currently that’s at the $5 tier and the research that I’ve done on that topic suggests nobody is backing us at that level to get access to the channel. If they are, they’re being woefully overcharged. I’d quite like to get enough people in there though to start some fun things up and running – we could play some games for example. There are a pile of games that work pretty well in text chat. The thing we need there is a critical mass, and I think $2 is pitched at a point that could happen.
We’ve also been making some changes to the channel to make it a better place to hang out, and things are already improving then. The idea was raised to do some party game stuff, like streaming a Jackbox game or two for people on the channel to play. I love that idea, and I’m going to work out how to make that happen regularly because it sounds like a blast.
The $3 Tier
The $3 tier is going to get access to a few posts that are going to be published as Patreon only exclusives a year in advance of them going anywhere else.
You are all likely aware that I’ve been doing a roundup of great content from the hobby on a monthly basis. My intention behind that was to raise the profile of good stuff that people may have missed, but it never really succeeded in that. I basically decided to give up entirely, but I think the idea is worthwhile even if the impact has been marginal at best. I’ve been mulling over how it might be made to work better, and I have some thoughts.
The first is that, if I can get the blessings of the moderators, it would be better to post these links in a Reddit post that it would on a MLU exclusive thing. I’m going to see about ‘syndicating’ the posts from 2018 onto Reddit in the hope that people can get better recognition for the work they’ve been doing. Basically, ‘here’s what you might have missed from this month last year’. Along with that I’m going to post the 2019 stuff here on Patreon – it’ll be Our Little Secret until it gets publicly revealed a year later on the site and then a little later still on Reddit.
In addition to this I’m going to do a Depth Year Diary for my 2019, in line with what Mrs Meeple and I have talked about here:
I don’t know what’s going to be in this yet, but its mostly just going to reflect on the things I wanted and the things I did instead. I haven’t let a complete lack of ideas disuade me from committing to a series of posts before and I don’t intend to now. That’ll be published to those on the $3 tier and then at the end of 2019 I’ll probably make it a special feature on the blog.
Other Patreon Changes 2019
One of the special feature posts for January (assuming we meet the goal for that) is going to be another ‘behind the curtains’ peek at Patreon. I’m going to make the amounts open, and I’m going to talk about the trajectory of pledges and the like. Basically show anyone thinking about starting a Patreon what it might look like behind the scenes. From this point on though we’re going to show our funding totals openly. The amount is probably less than you might think – Graphtreon is the Patreon equivalent of Celebrity Net Worth. Basically this is the kind of stuff that I think people need to see before they consider Patreon for their own projects even if it’s somewhat gauche to talk about money in such stark terms.
I’m also going to move to a ‘pay when you subscribe’ model too because of the fact certain posts are intended to be locked away and I have had a few instances over the past eight months of people subscribing to get posts and then deleting their pledge before the month is over. Patreon is kinda weird.
I’m also going to adjust the goals of the site a little – the editorial tier will remain where it is but the ‘keep writing reviews’ threshold will become a new goal at $200 pm. Basically that means further drops in pledges will result in a small holiday for me rather than be in themselves an existential threat to the site.
These aren’t necessarily all the Patreon changes to be made – it’s possible the discord reward will move down into $1 if I can think of something compelling to put a the $2 level as a replacement. Essentially my philosophy here is always going to be ‘find ways to build up, rather than strip down’. Ideas are always welcome.
Changes to the Site
I think Patreon places a very substantial psychological toll on supporters. It’s a lot to ask that people sign up to a monthly subscription and again – I’m so grateful to everyone that does. In recognition of this, I’m also going to link in a Kofi account to the site so that those that don’t want to subscribe monthly can decide on an incidental basis to throw us money for a coffee when they feel like it. Maybe when they’ve read a post that especially resonated, or just when they’re temporarily feeling flush but can’t commit to more Anything that comes in this way will be added (unofficially) to the current ‘goal’ being met by the site.
I’m also going to integrate Patreon more directly into the site itself – I don’t actually much like the Patreon interface for posts and I don’t like the Meeple Like Us ‘content library’ being spread over two sites. If you’re on Meeple Like Us you should be able to see everything without having to come over here. As such, I’m going to investigate the Patreon plugin to permit Patron locked content to appear directly on MLU with the appropriate timed restrictions. We’ll have to see how it actually looks in practice, but if it turns out to be more obtrusive than I’d like I’ll compensate by removing the end of post ‘nag’ reminder for the site. I’ll still cross-post to Patreon itself for those that prefer to read things over there, but the stats suggest otherwise.
I think 2019 is going to be make or break for Meeple Like Us. At the end of 2019 I will know whether it’s worth continuing the site or whether it’s time to start winding it down. Our goal for long-term continuation is $500 a month and I’ll be honest that seems completely unattainable at the moment since pledge growth is negative. Currently as our company balance for eight months of Patreon support we have about £100 or so once future expenses are factored in. $250 a month basically pays for the site.
With $500 I would be in a position, theoretically at least, to pay for some of the work that gets done on Meeple Like Us. It works out at about six hours a week at minimum wage for a site that is at least a 20-30 hour job on top of the one I have. Currently the site doesn’t cost me money to run, but the flip-side of that coin is that not running the site also wouldn’t cost me money to run and would give me a massive amount of free time back.
I’m certainly not doing this for the money, but money serves as a convenient fiction in society – it lets us compare the incomparable. If an accessibility site can’t pay someone minimum wage for a few days a month it’s hard to argue it realistically needs more effort sunk into it over the long term. I’ve been closely tracking the difference between the research work we published versus the figures as they are on the site as it exists, and there isn’t much difference between them. There are, I suspect, no new findings to come from the site in terms of the stats and as such nothing publishable to come from continued teardowns. A a result, they’re done in the hope they’re useful. At this point we have over one hundred and fifty of them across all kinds of games and all kinds of genres. If we stopped doing them now this would still be, I believe, a useful resource.
Sorry that’s a bit of a downer note to end on, but the truth is that Patreon is psychologically toxic for those on the creator side. It’s just a downer of a way to try to support a site and I think everyone deserves honesty about it.
Early on in January, probably when I open up the Patreon account and make the pledge changes, I’m going to try for a pledge drive. I’d really appreciate some signal boosting for that if you’re up for it!
Thanks to all our Patrons for your support. You are literally the greatest people that have ever lived through the entirety of human history. And thank you to the rest of you that are helping keep the site running – your comments, retweets, endorsements and social media sharing is the lifeblood of this project and don’t think I’m not aware of that.