Subscription platform Patreon could change the way writers and podcasters produce content, relying on consumers paying for memberships or subscriptions to provide income, rather than advertising revenue or a larger entity that could pay for that work.
Whether or not Patreon becomes a viable outlet for sportswriters and podcasters remains to be seen and will depend on creators’ ability to attract and maintain an audience. But the service itself is on firm ground after a new wave of funding. According to Recode’s Peter Kafka, Patreon raised $60 million in its latest round of funding from a group of five investment backers. That raises Patreon’s total funding to $107 million. TechCrunch reported that the company is now valued at $450 million, but some observers believe that number is too high.
Earlier this year, NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck created a Patreon site as a hub for his coverage after leaving USA Today. Gluck produces articles and podcasts, and reader contributions provide his income. Readers receive access to different sorts of content, such as behind-the-scenes posts and a Facebook group, based on tiers of contributions. NBA writer Derek Bodner has also found success with the site.
Arguably the biggest name to try this yet is NBA writer Peter Vecsey, who surprised many by coming out of retirement after a five-year hiatus and posting his work on Patreon. Once upon a time, Vecsey’s reporting was must-read or must-see content for pro basketball fans with outlets like the New York Post, NBC or Turner Sports. Maybe that content isn’t quite as vital to readers now accustomed to getting NBA news and rumors from Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania on Twitter, or Vecsey’s name might not even be known to younger readers after taking five years away, but going at it on his own (and emphasizing commentary over rumors), rather than trying to catch on with an established outlet, is notable.
Gluck and Vecsey have built-in audiences, name recognition and access that provides higher value for those who decide to contribute. Less established names may have more difficulty finding success, but devoted audiences can be very supportive — especially if the content being produced stands out from what else is available (for free) and offers something that can’t be found elsewhere.
But as media conglomerates continue to lay off high-priced talent, Patreon could increasingly become a viable outlet for writers and podcasters who can draw income based on their name recognition and work. What if Ken Rosenthal, for instance, had gone to Patreon instead of The Athletic? If FanRag Sports decides it can no longer keep Jon Heyman on, would Patreon provide another landing spot? Maybe a crowd-funded venture would do even better with more niche offerings (following Gluck’s lead) in sports like hockey and soccer.
With this new wave of funding providing more stability and credibility, however, more creators may feel compelled to try their hand at making their own way based on reader contributions instead of seeking advertisers or a corporate entity to house their work.