Patreon is rolling out an expansion of its tools for digital creators. Monthly fan subscriptions are Patreon’s bread and butter, but later this year, creators will be able to sell one-off digital goods and offer free subscriptions.
“The free to paid conversion path is quite successful,” said Julian Gutman, Patreon’s chief product officer. He sees the free subscription product as beneficial to creators, who can then use their subscription list like a newsletter, or a way to just reach all of their biggest fans at once. And hopefully, getting fans into a free membership community will encourage them to make a monthly pledge. As always, creators can choose which perks they want to offer for each tier of membership.
“Creators can actually know who their fans are, have their superfans in one place and have the ability to post something and know it’s going to reach them,” Gutman told TechCrunch.
Patreon’s leadership has been vocal about how algorithmically generated content feeds can sometimes hurt creators. Sure, the mysterious TikTok algorithm can work wonders, bringing creators to a wide audience beyond their wildest dreams. But once a creator builds up that following, it can be hard to know whether or not their fans will even see their posts. This tension came to a head last year, when Instagram fell under intense scrutiny for aggressively promoting algorithmic curation. Users saw fewer posts from people they actually follow, which posed some serious concerns for creators’ ability to reach fans.
“Instagram has a fundamental choice to make,” Conte told TechCrunch at the time. “Are we building a place where people can build deep, intimate, lasting relationships with each other? Or are we building this top-of-funnel, mass media, algorithmic curation platform?”
With free membership, Patreon hopes to enable creators to more easily access their fans, even those who don’t pay for bonus perks. Patreon’s new e-commerce shops also make creators’ lives easier — instead of directing fans to other platforms, they can just sell products like bonus podcasts, videos, music or writing directly on their Patreon page. Oftentimes, this bonus content is part of a creator’s existing paid membership, and selling it outside of that membership could potentially cheapen its value. However, Gutman says he thinks that this feature offers another way to convert one-off e-commerce shoppers into long-term, month-to-month subscribers. And for creators, that sustainable monthly income is more important than anything.
For e-commerce transactions, Patreon will keep 5% of the sale, plus tax and payment processing fees. That’s lower than the cut Patreon takes from subscriptions, which starts around 8%. Starting now, creators can sign up to join the waitlist for access to these features, which are anticipated to roll out more broadly later this year.