I did not expect this. Last week I said that Patreon was rolling out a horrible and nonsensical fee system. After a few days went by with no response I said:
Not feeling very confident about this @Patreon situation. If they were going to slow down / walk this back, they would have said so by now.
Which means they're not going to change, they're just trying to figure out how to get us to accept it.
(Hope I'm wrong.)
— Shamus! Young! (@shamusyoung) December 12, 2017
Lucky for all of us, I was wrong. They’re not just delaying the rollout or adjusting the policies, they’re scrapping the entire concept.
Their apology isn’t long, so I’m going to reprint the entire thing in full:
Creators and Patrons,
We've heard you loud and clear. We're not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we're going to fix them in a different way, and we're going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I'm sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.
I've spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:
The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 â€" $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.
We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes. Additionally, we need to give you a more flexible product and platform to allow you to own the way you run your memberships.
I know it will take a long time for us to earn back your trust. But we are utterly devoted to your success and to getting you sustainable, reliable income for being a creator. We will work harder than ever to build you tools, functionality, and income, and our team won't rest until Patreon is making that happen.
If you haven't sent us a note yet, or if you don't see your concerns listed above, please leave us your feedback here.
Thanks for continuing to create. We are nothing without you, and we know that.
That’s about as comprehensive an apology as you can hope for.
- Say sorry.
- Acknowledge that creators have lost income due to this change. (Well, not lost it yet. But as far as I can tell everyone lost supporters and that damage would be felt on Jan 1st.)
- Acknowledge that they shouldn’t have tried to roll out sweeping changes without getting feedback, and promise not to do that in the future.
- Recognize that aggregating pledges (having 10 different $1 donations happen in a single transaction to avoid fees) is a crucial feature of the platform.
- Show concern for the $1 and $2 pledges, so creators understand the platform isn’t looking to shed small donations in favor of large ones, or small creators in favor of superstars.
There’s still the question of how the company managed to make such a profound mistake. It seemed obvious to a lot of us, and yet nowhere in the company did anyone think, “Should we maybe ask before doing this?” Or if someone did think that, they didn’t feel comfortable saying it out loud. Something went wrong with the decision-making apparatus inside of Patreon. This isn’t like the problem with New Coke where the idea seemed reasonable on paper but turned out to be a disaster due to factors the leadership had overlooked. This idea was bad on the surface, for multiple reasons.
Having said that, I’m not too pessimistic about the future. Patreon is still a very small company, and small companies can change and adapt quickly. It’s not like EA where you’ve got a half-dozen layers of management bureaucracy filled with people who were hired, trained, promoted, and rewarded according to the Bad Old Ways and fixing the system will require a protracted fight against an entrenched culture. In a little company you can get everyone moving in a new direction without needing to fire half of them and wrestle the other half into submission. The most important step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one, and Patreon just did that as thoroughly as any company I’ve ever seen. It’s entirely possible they can take this lesson to heart and from now on “get feedback before making changes” can be part of their standard policy.
As always, I run this site for a living. I don’t run ads and I don’t do paid sponsorships. If you’d like to support what I do then Patreon is the way to go. Thanks so much to all the former supporters who came back when the policy changed.
Sorry for talking about money two weeks in a row. I know if you’re not a supporter this whole thing is probably boring. Next week I’ll try to find something fresh, interesting, and exciting to complain about.
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