I Can No Longer Recommend Patreon

I Can No Longer Recommend PatreonSee Update Below!

Patreon broke trust with every Patron registered with them, including This is True’s supporters, by suddenly announcing they would soon charge them more than their pledged amount. They billed it as something positive for creators. It absolutely is not: it is bad for creators. We creators got no advance notice of this, and no way to “opt out” of this plan — to continue to absorb those fees as we have in the past.

I Can No Longer Recommend PatreonYou deserve to know that what you pledge is what you will be charged, and not a penny more. You deserve plenty of notice if something is going to change, and at least 30 days to opt out if you don’t agree. You deserve to know that as much as your pledge as possible will go to the creator. You deserve to be treated like a true Patron of the people who create for you.

If you didn’t see the announcement, here’s what they said:  “Starting on December 18th, a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 will be paid by patrons for each individual pledge.”

While I know many of you won’t mind at all, I do. (And, I’m sure, many of you certainly will mind.) It especially impacts those of you who are doing smaller support levels. The support level with the most Patrons for True — $4 — will now be charged $4.47, which is more than a 10 percent increase.

And I can’t even opt out of that. Those smaller contributions are important: they add up to really help True, and it’s absolutely not fair to charge you more for that.

Saturday (December 9) Update: What I’m Doing About It

I’ve purchased an add-on package for True’s shopping cart that allows you to continue your support without charging you such fees. When you pledge $4, that’s all that will be charged to you, period! But even better, the software I’m working to install is more flexible than Patreon. You can choose other options than monthly, for instance. Want quarterly, semi-annual, or annual instead? You get that option. I’ve been waiting on Patreon to do that since the start — and I got tired of waiting.

Yes, I had to pay for the software, but you know what? I won’t have to pay Patreon’s 5% fee on any of your payments while you’re not charged more. Sounds like a win-win to me.

See the new support options here.

Naturally, Patreon’s timing was really bad. Not only with the holidays coming up, but I have two road trips planned before the end of the year: one for business, the other to see Kit’s aging father. So I pretty much spent the better part of 24 hours installing the software, learning it, setting up a new payment processor, and doing a whole bunch of modifications on the shopping cart to make it all work. And it works: people are already using it.

There will be more on this in upcoming newsletters. I won’t close my Patreon page, at least yet: I’ll see what the Patrons want to do. It’s your choice: pay their extra fees, or quit to send them a message, and support True directly.

I’m honored by your support, and I will do my best to ensure that your future contributions do more to help keep True running.

Wednesday (December 13) Update

Today, Patreon announced they’re rolling back the changes, and they did it in a good way:

  • The subject line: “We messed up. We’re sorry.”
  • Then they repeated the apology in the first sentence (“truly sorry,” even).
  • They walked back the changes entirely — no “excepts” (though they’re “assessing other options” because there are “problems” they need to solve).
  • They provided more detail in a blog post which noted that before any future changes, “we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around.” Darned right.
  • And, very importantly, they acknowledged “it will take a long time for us to earn back your trust.” True, but taking ownership of their screw-up in a very clear way is a good start on that.

So, what now? I’m leaving my new solution in place. That gives you the option. You really like Patreon because it’s a handy way to support multiple creators? Great: I’m leaving my page there. You’re wary and would prefer to support True directly, ensuring as much as possible of your payment runs the publication, rather than partially funds the Patreon platform? You have that too with the new system I put in. I’m also working on that, by the way, to see if I can make it even more flexible, giving you the option of choosing a specific dollar amount, rather than just the specific tiers set up there.

Because of this, the title of this post in now overstated: I’m leaving it since it accurately reflects what I said on the original posting date, but while I’m still not “recommending” Patreon, I’m not anti-Patreon either. My thinking is, as long as they keep to their promises in their apology, it will remain an important platform for many creators, especially those who don’t have the tech chops to create their own backup for funding, as I did, and I applaud that they have such an option.

So that’s where we are now: you are in charge, just as you should be. Thanks so much for your support for my position here, and for your support for True.

- - -

This page is an example of Randy Cassingham’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. His This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

I Can No Longer Recommend Patreon
(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

40 Comments on “I Can No Longer Recommend Patreon

  1. And this is why I love you. When I saw the announcement yesterday as well, I expected you to be upset about it, and I’m pleased that you are. They should have at least given creators an option to eat the fees themselves instead of forcing this on them. I’m even more pleased that you’re already working on a backup plan and that that plan will be in place before the next round of charges. Thanks for all that you do!

    My subscribers do a lot for TRUE, and I think it’s important to look after their best interests in return. I appreciate your immediately grasping the implications here. -rc

  2. One wonders just how many opinions went into this decision. One also wonders just how much business they will lose because of it.

    My guess: most of it. I think they’ll crash and burn. -rc

  3. This will be a challenge for some users. I’ve tended to support many content providers for just $1 rather than picking fewer favorites. With a per-recipient fee accounting for more than 1/4 of my support at that level, my giving habits will probably change. I recall that the Green brothers had a similar funding site that was absorbed by Patreon. Is there any other option now? I have really liked the simplicity of a single way to support many content providers.

    “Drip” — which was apparently failing but is now a Kickstarter company — is gearing up in this space. No doubt they will push even harder to get open now. I don’t know if I’ll try them or not. -rc

  4. As I told Patreon when I cancelled my subscriptions, Creators will find a way to get my money, but Patreon will never get it. I’m looking forward to your implementation.

  5. I’ve heard similar outrage from most of the creators I support. I’ll be keeping an eye on this, and moving to follow anyone who chooses a new funding mechanism. Thanks for being proactive about this.

  6. I really want to be a fly on the wall when it happens. I came >this< close to setting up Patron accounts for my favorite genre narrators on YouTube. In the end I went with YouTube Red (no commercials). I'd be extremely pissed to find out I was suddenly being "overcharged" with no way out.

    There’s definitely a way out: you have always been able to change or discontinue Patreon payments at will. (Though as a creator, I cannot: I can’t change the amount, or even stop it, unless I “ban” the Patron, which means they can never support me again.) We’ve been begging Patreon for the ability to help support Patrons by stopping or reducing payments for them, but they clearly didn’t want to go down that road. -rc

  7. I’m looking forward to your support implementation. I actually DID see the Patreon announcement — I usually route their saccharine to my SPAM folder but happened to note the header and actually read it yesterday.

    A request: Send a SEPARATE email to your premium subscribers titled something like “Here’s my new donation link” or some such. I tend to read TiT while on the road through the week then delete it. Seeing a TiT once I get home for the weekend, I read the first line or two and decide “I’ve seen this one” and delete it out-of-hand. Having an email containing the link to dump Patreon and begin using your system in another email will prompt me to save it to my “When you get home” folder — I don’t do financial transactions on my phone.

    Thanks for your “take” on greed. If Patreon couldn’t make their service fly they should have warned users that the aircraft was in trouble and that they’d need to take corrective action — like raising fees. You do NOT try to upgrade the engine in-flight.

    This Patreon debacle is about breaking trust: doing something other than promised. (When a Patron chooses to contribute $10/month, and sees that $10/month is charged to his card month after month, then a sudden increase on that amount is unconscionable.) Similarly, I have promised to never send promotional emails, even to the free subscribers: just the issues and, of course, for Premium, renewal notices. So to suddenly send a separate email to say “Hey! You can send more money here!” just doesn’t fly for me, even though I understand it would be helpful for some. But I will be putting notices up top, before the stories, in issues to address this, and hopefully that will be enough to get your attention. And those who don’t care at all can just scroll down and get right to the stories. -rc

  8. Aircraft (business model) failing to produce enough (money). Let’s change the ticket price for all the passengers once they’ve boarded the aircraft. Right? At least give an opt-out, Patreon! I WILL be dumping them as soon as Randy gets his system up and running, fer sure!

  9. I have no problem staying with Patreon a while, to ease the pressure of you having to rush changes, Randy. But it sounds like you’re not prepared to put up with them! I don’t understand why Patreon didn’t do one $0.35 per CC charge which would be one per month since all my Patreons are monthly up front. I’ve read both their attempted explanations and still don’t understand.

    First, thanks for your consideration to offer breathing room, Ian! Patreon does have competing priorities, and should have taken the time to talk with creators to find a solution. Going to a policy that means more charges and thus more fees, then passing those extra fees along to the Patrons, is just boneheaded in my opinion. All that said, I won’t force supporters to stop using Patreon, but I do hope they’ll migrate to my more flexible platform when it’s ready. -rc

  10. Plus, it kicked me out and I didn’t know it until yesterday. Sorry about that, Randy Cassingham, I tried to support you with my monthly. 🙁

    Stay tuned: I hope to have my system running before you’ll miss an issue. -rc

  11. I had a funny feeling that something like this would come down the road when you first started supporting Patreon.

    I was familiar with and a fan of Patreon’s founder, Jack Conte, so I felt pretty confident about using (I’d rather not say “support”) it. But I’m now less clear how much influence he has there: there have been several rounds of VC millions coming in, valuing the company at $450 million when its net income is something like $3 million/year. My guess is, that’s putting huge pressure on the company to raise revenues. Yet when Patrons and Creators both flee these new policies, what’s going to happen to their revenues?! -rc

  12. This looks like an extra charge for using credit cards. Do they charge for payments through paypal and other electronic payment options?

    In the past, credit card companies have said that businesses cannot charge extra for accepting credit cards. I wonder if you can take this up with Visa or MasterCard?

    I don’t believe they allow Paypal — they just accept plastic, as far as I know. But even if they did offer Paypal, that company also charges fees …which just happen to pretty much exactly match credit card fees. This shouldn’t surprise you. 🙂 -rc

    • Patreon does indeed accept PayPal. I have always had my pledge charged through PayPal. And yes, it appears they will be charging this fee to PayPal users as well.

      I appreciate knowing that: I didn’t realize that was an option. -rc

    • Ironically, the credit card fees are supposed to be built in to everyone’s price. The CC companies are actually going after businesses which want to give their customers discounts for cash purchases – they don’t allow that, since it makes explicit that people pay more to use credit cards. And then there are all these “cash back” offers, which infuriate me. If they can afford to give back some of the fees you pay, why don’t they just charge everybody less?

  13. Have you spanked them publicly about this on Twitter, Randy?

    Much better than that: I’ve posted an essay on my site that’s significantly longer than 280 characters and allows readers, including Patrons, to comment and interact. And then tweeted out the link to this page, and posted it on Facebook, and both can be easily shared. -rc

    Link to the page: https://thisistrue.com/forget-patreon/
    Tweet: https://twitter.com/ThisIsTrue/status/939375244095213568
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsTrue/posts/10155127169320814

  14. Can y’all complain to the BBB?

    It has been a long time since the BBB has had much relevance. Few even look for “approval” and it doesn’t seem to mean much anyway, when a business can simply buy their way in. -rc

  15. Just means that We pay the fee instead of the artist we’re trying to support… What’s the big deal? If you feel that strongly about it, then reduce the amount you send to the artist so you don’t pay extra.

    If you’re actually a Patron to support the Artists, you should welcome the change because the Artists are getting more.

    Then let’s just charge everyone double, because that will benefit the creators! The only problem with that: that’s not what the Patrons signed up for. They offered what they felt they wanted to pay, or could afford. To change that amount without agreement sounds more like theft than benevolence. -rc

  16. I got an email from them about the same time you did. I was prepared to suck it up in order to help This is True but I’m glad you’ll be providing an alternative. I await further information.

  17. You’re such a stand up guy.

    I simply am doing what I think is right, in the face of a “service provider” who I think is doing us all wrong. That’s not a difficult decision to make. -rc

    • I was not being snarky by saying you are a stand up guy. Most would have just tacked on the added expense and called it a day.

      Yeah, it “looks” snarky, but I did take it at face value. No worries! -rc

  18. Have you considered offering cart services to other creators? You’re not the only one that upset about this, but none of the others have any good alternative.

    While that’s a nice thought, I need to concentrate on the mission I have, not try to compete in this highly complex space. Those who are a bit savvy with tech can do what I’m doing for around $500 (on top of monthly server hosting costs, which most serious creators are already paying). Definitely a wallet hit for those on a shoestring, but certainly doable for most who are actually producing quality content that has active followers. -rc

  19. I chose Patreon to support This is True as a form of reliable and steady income for the service (and you). However this change is just not acceptable. I am now considering other options, such as becoming a premium subscriber. I don’t want to do that if it has a negative impact on you, however. I’d be interested to know your preferred option?

    I truly appreciate your support! My usual answer to your question is: do what works for you. Patreon seemed to work well for you, and that’s great — but we clearly agree that their action is outrageous, and should not be supported. That’s why I’m creating a way to do the same kinds of support directly, in my shopping cart. You will still be able to do your $4/month contribution, without added fees, there …soon! I hope to have an update for you in Monday’s Premium. And by the way: the amounts you have sent via Patreon have been received, and you will get every issue you paid for, even if you cancel Patreon right now. There is time to get the replacement in place and not miss any issues. -rc

  20. Been waiting for someone to make a better Patreon. It’s a great platform but sooo many ignored flaws, and such easy ways to make it better. And now this.

  21. There’s been a *lot* of discussion on this on other creators’ pages as well — Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary, Doc Nickel of The Whiteboard, to name but two — and the general consensus seems to be that while we generally sort of understand the problem Patreon was intending to solve, the “solution” is clumsy, ill-considered, poorly thought through in general, and almost certainly violates Visa and Mastercard rules. The card issuers’ rules prohibit service charges (which this is) on recurring charges (which this is), and as if that weren’t bad enough, it’s pretty hard not to see this as structuring charges in such a way as to charge multiple service charges on a single card transaction. I have no problem with covering the card transaction fee up front, but being charged 14 service charges on a single monthly charge because it’s divided between 14 different creators stinks to high heaven — even without that recurring service charge being prohibited by Visa’s rules in the first place.

    From what I’ve seen so far, creators are pissed, patrons are pissed, and many creators are concerned that this is going to cost them more in lost patrons than it gains them in no-longer-subtracted fees. Patrons who make a lot of small donations each month are going to be hit particularly hard. Patrons who have pledged a whole lot of $1 donations are going to see their monthly charge go up almost 40%. If it were me making the call, I would NOT have done it this way. And what makes it worse is that not a word was said to anyone until it was already a done deal.

    Patreon screwed up badly on this. Here’s hoping they reconsider it before the damage snowballs too far.

  22. I got the email about the fee changes and immediately cancelled my pledges. I made sure to explain the reason for the cancellations when Patreon asked me why I was cancelling. It shows the greed of Patreon when they increase rates and try to guilt-trip you by saying it’s helping the creators. I’ll be more than happy to send money directly to the creators without the middle man taking a huge cut. Hopefully enough people did the same and Patreon sees that they’ve pissed people off.

  23. Thanks for the heads up. A couple other sites I support use Patreon. I’m passing this along for further discussion.

  24. Wow, I’ve been struggling with the Patreon help desk because my CC was hacked, so I got a new one. I haven’t logged into Patreon for quite a while, so it wants to send me an email to verify I’m me, logging into the account. However for some reason my email service is not receiving the email. The help desk just sent me “try this and this and this” which I already tried. Maybe I’ll just leave it with the old credit card number, so it can’t charge me anymore, and I’ll find other ways to contribute. (BTW: I’m not a patreon contributor to you, I’m already a premium subscriber).

  25. I’m a Premium subscriber to True, and that isn’t going to change.

    Because I was already using Patreon for other projects, it was easy enough to add a little bit on there for you. However, the fee changes that Patreon have just announced are so unpleasant for subscribers like me that I’m not going to continue with them (it amounts to a 25% increase in costs for me, because I have a lot of small pledges)

    This is definitely going to hurt a lot of small creators. The hit on small contributions is huge. -rc

  26. Randy, what an excellent example of how to behave morally and ethically: Notice a problem; attempt to understand it; communicate about it with those directly affected by it; and take action to address it, not vindictively but simply in keeping with your own stated convictions.

    Thanks for your observation — I’ve been working so hard on “fixing” this, I hadn’t spent the time reflecting on it. Very insightful. -rc

  27. Premium subscriber here. Thanks for reminding me as it almost slipped under my radar.

    I had a few smaller per-post pledges up on Patreon. Now that I would not only have to pay VAT on my pledges (19% in Germany) but the new fees as well it makes spreading small amounts much too expensive. Instead of $1.19 per post (for a $1 pledge) it would be $1,64, an increase of 38%. Almost none of that increase would have reached the creators.

  28. So I did not read all the comments, but are you marketing this system to other Paetron users? You should have a couple of bucks on the table there….

    That is indeed covered in an earlier comment. -rc

  29. Congratulations on your prompt response and effort to set up a direct contribution scheme. I much prefer monthly contributions to organizations I support, but am reluctant to involve third parties (with, at appears, some justification). I passed on Patreon, but will be subscribing on your new system. I understand how useful a predictable steady income stream is!

    Thanks, Don. Yes, that bigger picture is sometimes lost in squabbles like this: our expenses (servers, email services, and much much more!) continue on as revenues fluctuate wildly. I appreciate your grasping that so clearly. -rc

  30. I saw this while reading one of my favorite news for nerds sites, be advised that if you decide to read the comments, they may get spicy, slashdot is not particularly concerned about feelings. It does seem as though patreon has come to their senses about this change in charging.


    Yep, with users leaving in a scene reminiscent of a herd of prairie buffalo, and scads of creators who have an audience (as this page shows for just one example), they got the message loudly, clearly, and repeatedly. -rc

  31. On your blog post where you originally announced your Patreon page 15 months ago, in the very first comment Brian in CT praised you for “solving all my problems for me before they’re even on my horizon.” He pointed out that you’re on top of trends, yet remain flexible, and “I wish that wasn’t so rare these days.” That seems to be true: hell, you apparently STARTED the trend of email newsletters!

    Though that’s not the part that really got my attention. You said in reply you’d always have a direct payment option “Because frankly, it’s also a rational decision to not have the entirety of my business dependent on someone else’s business, which could (like any other business) fail.”

    Boy, is your wisdom showing now — talk about “thinking” being important! Maybe Patreon will fail, maybe they won’t now that they have reversed course and apologized, but you didn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and those who did are probably really hurting with the mass exodus of Patrons. I imagine many creative endeavors will see much less support.

    So kudos for being right on top of this, and giving us “True Patrons” more and more alternatives.

    Thanks, Barry. I forgot all about that comment, but it does show my thought process pretty well: it would be insane to shut down what worked for years for any third-party platform no matter how good it is. As we now see, a misstep by someone we depend on can really screw things up. -rc

  32. Having read your update, Randy, perhaps I’m missing something here. Patreon was always charging that money somewhere, were they not?

    They were simply charging it below the net and changed to charging it above the net — that is from paying artists the net amount of pledges to paying them the gross amount of pledges. Is that not what they were changing?

    Not exactly. There was always some processing charge, yes. But by charging each pledge individually, rather than as a group, they greatly added to the fees, and then they were forcing those fees on Patrons, who didn’t agree to them, rather than the creators, who did agree to the previous, smaller fees. There was no change to the 5% charge (taken off the top) they charged creators for being on the site and getting the service, which I didn’t object to before, and don’t now. -rc

    • Jay: One of the benefits that people liked about Patreon was that they could pledge to several creators and have a single aggregate payment charged them each month. The benefit of this was that the overhead that the credit card would take would be split amongst all of the creators. (My understanding is that this overhead involved both a flat fee per charge and a percentage of the charge amount. It was this flat fee that would be distributed in an aggregate pledge.)

      One of the changes in the new Patreon model was that a $0.35 overhead fee would be charged for *each pledge*–in other words, the benefit of aggregating your donations at a single charge point would be lost completely. Many people that I read were accusing this of being a cash grab on Patreon’s part, which annoyed them at least in part because Patreon was billing this as “this is good for the creators.”

  33. I understand why you left the title of the post unchanged, but I really wish that you would annotate it with an “[UPDATED]” or otherwise. Seeing this post for the first time today, I nearly showed it to my spouse before noticing the extended section below.

    In a world where your attention is constantly in high demand, it’s not unreasonable to expect that people will scan the beginning of a page and move on quickly… unless they have some indication that there’s more to the story below.

    A good suggestion — which is why there is already an extra-large, bright blue notation right under the title that says “See Update Below!” -rc


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