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Patreon, Inc.
Patreon logo since October 4, 2023
Wordmark and logo used since 2023[1]
Screenshot
A Patreon page from October 4, 2023
Type of site
Membership platform
Available inEnglish
Headquarters
San Francisco, California
,
U.S.
Created by
Key peopleJack Conte (CEO)
Employees400 (2021)[2]
URLpatreon.com
RegistrationRequired
Users3 million monthly active patrons
LaunchedMay 2, 2013; 11 years ago (2013-05-02)
Current statusActive

Patreon (/ˈptriɒn/, /-ən/) is a monetization platform operated by Patreon, Inc., that provides business tools for content creators to run a subscription service and sell digital products. It helps artists and other creators earn a recurring income by providing rewards and perks to its subscribers. Patreon charges a commission of 9 to 12 percent of creators' monthly income, in addition to payment processing fees.

Patreon is used by videographers, webcomic artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, adult content creators,[3] and other kinds of creators who post regularly online.[4] It allows artists to receive funding directly from their fans, or patrons, on a recurring basis or per work of art.[5] The company is based in San Francisco.[6]

History

Original Patreon logo used from May 2, 2013 to June 13, 2017.

Patreon, Inc., was co-founded in May 2013 by developer Sam Yam and musician Jack Conte,[7][8] who was looking for a way to make a living from his YouTube videos.[9] It developed a platform that allowed 'patrons' to pay a set amount of money every time an artist created a work of art. The company raised $2.1 million in August 2013 from a group of venture capitalists and angel investors.[10][11] In June 2014, Patreon raised a further $15 million in a series A round led by Danny Rimer of Index Ventures.[12][13] In January 2016, the company closed on a fresh round of $30 million in a series B round, led by Thrive Capital, which put the total raised for Patreon at $47.1 million.[14]

It signed up more than 125,000 "patrons" in its first 18 months.[15] In late 2014, the website announced that patrons were sending over $1,000,000 per month to the site's content creators.[16]

In March 2015, Patreon acquired Subbable, a similar voluntary subscription service created by the Green brothers, and absorbed Subbable creators' pages and content. Notably CGP Grey, Destin Sandlin's Smarter Every Day, and the Green brothers' own CrashCourse and SciShow channels.[17] The merger was consequent to an expected migration of payment systems with Amazon Payments that Subbable used.

In October 2015, the site was the target of a large cyber-attack, with almost 15 gigabytes of password data, donation records, and source code taken and published. The breach exposed more than 2.3 million unique e-mail addresses and millions of private messages.[18][19] Following the attack, some patrons received extortion emails demanding Bitcoin payments in exchange for the protection of their personal information.[20][21][22]

In January 2017, Patreon announced that it had sent over $100,000,000 to creators since its inception.[23]

In May 2017, Patreon announced that it had over 50,000 active creators and 1 million monthly patrons, and was on track to send over $150 million to creators in 2017.[24]

Wordmark used from June 13, 2017[25] to June 29, 2020.

In June 2017, Patreon announced a suite of tools for creators to run membership businesses on the Patreon platform. Notable improvements included a customer relationship management system, a mobile app called Lens, and a service to set up exclusive livestreams.[26]

In August 2018, Patreon announced the acquisition of Memberful, a membership services company.[27]

In April 2020, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of financial difficulty for the economy, the company laid off 30 employees or 13% of its workforce at the time.[28] April 2021, the company laid off 36 employees or 13% of its workforce despite reporting recent growth.[29]

Patreon logo from June 29, 2020 to October 4, 2023.

In October 2021, Patreon confirmed it was looking into implementing cryptocurrencies and NFTs after creators expressed interests in having the opportunity to offer exclusive memberships and benefits to its patrons through a coin or token.[30]

In March 2022, Patreon announced that it has more than 250,000 creators who are using the platform, and there are more than 8 million active patrons from 200+ countries.[31]

In September 2022, Patreon announced it was laying off 80 people, representing about 17% of its staff.[32][33] As part of the layoffs, the company also announced that it would be closing its Dublin and Berlin offices.[34]

In October 2023, Patreon announced a full redesign of their interface and brand identity, including new features like community chats.[35] Patreon also announced the acquisition of Moment, a ticketed live streaming platform.[36]

Business model

Patreon users are grouped by content type, such as video/films, podcast, comedy, comics, games, and education. These content creators set up a page on the Patreon website, where patrons can choose to pay a fixed amount to a creator on a monthly basis.[37] Alternatively, content creators can configure their page so that patrons pay every time the artist releases a new piece of art. A creator typically displays a goal that the ongoing revenue will go towards, and can set a maximum limit of how much they receive per month. Patrons can cancel their payment at any time. Creators typically provide membership benefits (commonly in the form of exclusive content or behind-the-scenes work) for their patrons, depending on the amount that each patron pays.[38][39]

Patrons can unlock monetary tiers that increase the content type they see from the user. Several content creators on Patreon are also YouTubers. They can create content on multiple platforms, and while the YouTube videos may be available to the public, the patrons receive private content made exclusively for them in exchange for aiding the Patreon user's goal.[40] Patreon takes a 8-12% commission on pledges. As of May 2017, the average pledge per patron was around $12, and a new patron pledged to a creator every 5.5 seconds.[41]

As of February 2014, almost half of the artists on Patreon produce YouTube videos, while most of the rest are writers, webcomics artists, musicians, or podcasters.[42] As of December 2016, Patreon's Community Guidelines allow nudity and suggestive imagery as long as they are clearly marked, but prohibit content that may be deemed pornographic or as glorifying sexual violence.[43]

Unlike other online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, which use trained algorithms to identify potentially inappropriate content, Patreon's trust and safety team monitors users and investigates complaints of Terms of Service violations.[44]

Controversies

Bans of specific users

In July 2017, right-wing YouTube personality Lauren Southern was banned from Patreon over concerns about Génération Identitaire's blocking of NGO ships in the Mediterranean, ferrying migrants to Europe off the Libyan coast. A letter she received from Patreon said she was removed for "raising funds in order to take part in activities that are likely to cause loss of life," referring to an incident in May involving Southern, and the larger Defend Europe mission in July, which she covered on YouTube. Philosopher, writer, and podcast host Sam Harris, who also received contributions from patrons on the website, objected to Patreon's approach and announced that he would be leaving the platform because of it.[45] Shortly thereafter Patreon deleted the account of It's Going Down, a far-left news website, for allegedly doxing.[46]

In September 2018, Patreon banned Turkish journalist-in-exile Kamil Maman after Turkey threatened to block the entire site in Turkey if the company did not comply. In an e-mail sent to Maman, Patreon said "This was not an easy decision for [us], as we are huge proponents of free speech, but it was a decision we made in order to best protect access to Turkish creators." Maman condemned Patreon for giving in to the demands of an autocratic regime.[47]

In December 2018, Patreon banned Milo Yiannopoulos a day after he created an account and also banned Carl Benjamin because he used homophobic and racist slurs in a YouTube interview in February 2018.[44] Benjamin claimed that Patreon had taken his words out of context[48] and that "the video in question should not fall under Patreon's rules because it was on YouTube."[44]

This ban was criticized by Sam Harris and some American libertarians, who have accused it of being politically motivated.[44] Furthermore, Jordan Peterson announced a plan to launch an alternative service that will be safe from political interference, and jointly announced with Dave Rubin in a January 1, 2019, video that they will be leaving Patreon by January 15, 2019, as a direct response to its treatment of Carl Benjamin and has since effected that change.[49][50]

Patreon banned comedian Owen Benjamin following alleged hate speech. Benjamin filed an arbitration claim for $2.2 million (later upped to $3.5 million) and told fans to file identical claims against Patreon as required by the Terms of Use in an attempt to pressure them into a settlement. Benjamin said that the suit(s) had a basis due to a disrupted economic relationship. Patreon launched a counter-suit against 72 individuals who filed arbitration claims and sought a preliminary injunction to stay all arbitration proceedings pending the outcome of its counter-suit. The injunction was denied, meaning that Patreon may be required to prefund the arbitration claims against itself up to $10,000 per claim. Patreon had previously changed its terms of service on January 1, 2020, to end the conditions under which the suits attempted by Benjamin's supporters (but not himself) occurred, as the lawsuits were filed on January 6. The terms-of-service update stated that only the person banned from the platform would be allowed to file a complaint and that any arbitration fees would have to be paid by the person or entity filing the complaint. The suits open the door to lawsuits from supporters of other Patreon users banned from the platform, with freelance journalist Lauren Southern preparing her suit.[51][52]

Response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Patreon maintained its business in Russia despite international pressure on western companies operating in Russia to cease operating there.[53][54].

At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Patreon closed a major Ukrainian account run by a charity named Comeback Alive, which raised money for helping volunteers and veteran divisions.[55]

On February 15, 2024, Patreon deleted the account of Artur Rehi,[56] an Estonian military video blogger. Patreon stated "hate speech" as one of the reasons for the deletion, due to Rehi's reference to the Russians in occupied Ukraine as "Occupiers". The other reason was "funding military", despite Rehi's funneling of all donations through Rotary Club.[57]

The platform has been used to finance pro-Russia military bloggers actively supporting Russian aggression against Ukraine, such as WarGonzo (Semen Pegov).[58]

Changes in content guidelines and terms of service

In December 2017, Patreon announced a service fee starting on December 18, 2017, where some fees would be charged to the patrons rather than all fees being paid by the creator. This caused a backlash from several creators, including some who saw members of their fanbase withdraw small pledges in response. Under the new payment model, a $1 pledge would have cost a patron $1.38, and a $5 pledge would have cost $5.50, representing a 38% and 10% rise respectively.[59] Due to this backlash and the loss of many pledges for creators, Patreon announced that it would not be rolling out these changes, and apologized to its users.[60]

In 2018, Patreon was accused of cracking down on ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos.[61]

On October 24, 2020, Patreon announced that it would ban all accounts "that advance disinformation promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory."[62]

Adult content

In March 2014, Patreon announced via email that creators of sexual content on its platform would no longer be allowed to use PayPal services through Patreon to fulfill subscription payments.[63] In July 2016, Patreon emailed its content creators announcing that payments through PayPal would resume for adult-oriented creators.[64] Those who worked within the "Not Safe For Work" categories on Patreon could accept payments through PayPal via PayPal's subsidiary Braintree.[46] In October 2017, Patreon reverted its stance on NSFW content, introducing new restrictions.[65] It published an expanded version of the community guidelines with a broader definition of sexual content, triggering a backlash from some adult content creators.[66][67][68] A petition in protest of the changes gathered 1,800 signatures, which drew a response from Jack Conte.[69][70]

In June 2018, Patreon suspended some creators who produced adult content.[71]

Allegations of CSAM

Since its inception, Patreon has been widely criticized for its approach on handling and removing child sexual abuse material either drawn, photographed, or filmed. In March 2018, a petition that gathered nearly 37,000 signatures demanded that the company prohibit animators and artists from selling content depicting child rape.[72]

In August 2021, an Australian news agency reported that Patreon was hosting sexual content of children under 18 filmed in a psychiatric hospital in Prague, Czech Republic.[73] In May 2022, social media influencer Michael McWhorter claimed to have found sexually provocative pictures and videos of pre-pubescent children on Patreon categorized as NSFW and requiring the customer to be 18 years or older to view or purchase such content.[74] In September 2022, following the laying off of several members of the Patreon security team, McWhorter published a follow-up video featuring a testimony from another user claiming she reported CSAM she found to Patreon staff and it simply dismissed any concerns.[75][76][74] Patreon denied the claims, dismissing them as "dangerous and conspiratorial disinformation".[77][78][74]

In March 2023, Patreon announced its partnership with Tech Coalition, an internet agency with aims to combat child sexual exploitation and online child abuse.[79] A few months later in June 2023, an investigation by the BBC discovered AI-generated sexual abuse images of children for sale on the website. Patreon eventually removed the accounts in question.[80]

See also

  • Convoz – Video-based social networking service
  • Liberapay – French crowd-funding platform founded in 2015
  • OnlyFans – Internet content subscription service

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