I think that the biggest challenge and consequence of particular business models becoming dominant is that they are seen as the only options, in the same way that we talked about how capitalism is seen as the only option by many Westerners because it is the most prominent and visible choice.
Many times, lack of diversity leads to abuses of the system at the top, which limits the ability of the creators and the consumers. We can see that in instances like Facebook or Tumblr, where there is a complete disconnect between the admin and the users, but there isn’t really anywhere else that users can go to access the same content.
We can also see it in the case where decisions made on the corporate side of Patreon could affect the way that users could monetize, sending them scurrying to find a new way to collect money from people online but there was nowhere for them to go. Ko-fi is not as widely used as Patreon and it is difficult to set up their own secure methods of monetization on websites.
Many creators rely on Patreon for a significant portion of their annual income in order to continue making their art. When Patreon announced that it was changing its fee structure there was general outcry from creators. Natalie Luhrs scathingly wrote, “The solution, however, seems to be one which is designed to put significantly more cash into Patreon’s pockets as well as the creators’.”
If Patreon had decided to go through with their change, Luhrs states that it would pretty much make any contributions under $5 obsolete. She attaches the graph below with numbers she ran to contrast the proposed fees from Patreon with the current system and states that ” The difference is glaringly obvious” (Luhrs).
If these changes had gone through the users of Patreon would be given a hard choice– either abandon the platform for something else (something unknown, as there are no players in the market currently who seem to be able to compete with Patreon) or accept a big cut to their monthly income.
Luckily Patreon backed out of their decision because of the outcry from creators. They posted a stumbling statement with a title that reads more like a desperate boyfriend trying to get their girl back after they fought than a company apologizing to their users, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change.”
This is clearly a choice they made because they knew that their business would collapse if their creators abandoned the platform. In the article, Jack Conte lists all the problems that the fee created for Patreon users as though they didn’t know about them beforehand and it was only brought to Patreon’s attention because of the outcry, but I find that difficult to believe. This is another instance where the disconnect between admin and users can lead to abuses in the system.
Until more models with different services arise I believe there will be a power imbalance between those who run websites and those who use them/ create content.
Conte, Jack. “We Messed Up. We’re Sorry, and We’re Not Rolling out the Fees Change.” Patreon Blog. December 13, 2017. Accessed February 17, 2019. https://blog.patreon.com/not-rolling-out-fees-change.
Luhrs, Natalie. “Funny Money, Patreon Style.” Pretty Terrible. December 12, 2017. Accessed February 17, 2019. https://www.pretty-terrible.com/funny-money-patreon-style/.