"Subscriptions" for content providers (Patreon, etc.)

Since the “My Life is a Subscription” episode in December, there has been a lot of interesting discussion about when supporting an app through a subscription is appropriate or beneficial, both from the viewpoint of the developer and the customer.

I’d like to pose a related question: when do you support content creators through Patreon or similar?

I regularly listen to several podcasts and follow numerous YouTube channels. I would love to support all of this great content, but that add$ up really fast!

Does anyone have a rule of thumb about what content providers you support?

I currently do not support any content providers becuase I don’t have the discretionary income to justify it at the moment. This is not because they aren’t deserving of the support or because the funding model is wrong. In most cases the content is good and I don’t categorically object to patreon/membership business models.

For me, the content being produced by people in my areas of interest, and the exclusive perks that additional support offers, just don’t make the cut in my budget.

In the list of content creators I follow who do have memberships or patreons, there are some who would get support before others as my discretionary income changes – they’re in the front of the line, so to speak. These are creators whose content is either more directly relevant to my personal and professional pursuits, or with which I connect on a deeper emotional or personal level. In other words, content creators whose work is more useful or meaningful to me would get my money first. Those whose work fall largely in the “entertainment” domain or whose work is part of a more frivolous personal pursuit would be lower on this list.


No rule of thumb, just an analysis of cost vs benefit. Some providers charge to remove ads or include premium content. In some cases it’s worth the cost and in others it’s not. I think of it like a magazine or similar subscription.

I have no rule of thumb, zero cost/benefit analysis. A couple of times a year I randomly rotate a small monthly pool support for a few content creators, based on (a) my appreciation for the work done, (b) my understanding that they are not earning much and could use the money, and © if something catches my eye.

I currently give to a couple of tech-related Patreon accounts (an open-source platform developer, and a non-profit[?] dev of a 99¢ mindfulness app) and to a couple of non-profit groups. I am not really interested in ‘extra Patreon content’ or supporting commercial podcasters, and as far as I know I’ve never gotten a benefit aside from access to a Discord forum which I visited maybe once.

I’m certainly not one of those giving to Chapo Trap House, which pulls in over $1 million/year through Patreon.

I don’t contribute to any podcast because they all have commercials – I figure I’m paying for them that way.

OTOH I give an annual contribution to Wikipedia, a website I rely on that has no advertising. I’ve also contributed to Dan Piraro because I love reading his Bizarro cartoons and neither have a newspaper subscription or see any advertising online. I’ve done one time contributions to peoples’ websites with content that I’ve profited from and for software I’ve used where payment has been voluntary.


I think my only rule of thumb is that I try not to give in a way that supports benefit tiers because they usually seem to be set up wrong and create too much work relative to the benefit. Just ask for money for doing what you’re already doing please!

I don’t have a rule, per se. I consume a ton of stuff online that I never have to pay for. The older I get, the more responsibility I feel to volunteer to pay for some of it. But I’m also comfortable accepting that I’ll never be able to afford to pay for all of the things I’d like to pay for.

Whenever I can, I try to assess whether a given source is worthy of some amount of payment from me. My decision is based on a few factors, the primary factor being how much value I think I get out of that source.

I contribute to a few creators regularly (either monthly or annually), and from time to time I’ll make one-time payments to others who I think deserve some tangible form of appreciation.

I’m not arbitrary about it, but my decisions are obviously highly subjective and probably wouldn’t make sense to some people.

1 Like

I support relay.fm because of MPU, and the Philosophize This! podcast via Patreon. I don’t have time to listen to it, but he’s brilliant and I want to support his work.

Timely topic @rgilmour. I donate for truly exceptional content, pertinent to me. I would pay more frequently, to support a more viable long-term funding model.

Slightly re-directing the answer to @rgilmour’s question -
Podcasters could offer a choice -1. podcasts with tasteful unobtrusive ads, or 2. podcasts with no ads, available for a subscription fee (not a donation). In either case, podcasts (and podcast apps) should not track listeners or collect or sell listeners’ data.

I gladly pay for apps with similar choices. Example - the excellent Overcast app. The business model is: “Small, tasteful ads in the app for free users, and an option to disable the ads with an inexpensive annual subscription.” Perfect. Give the listener a choice.

The above seems more straightforward and workable in the long run than the donation model, which would include ads anyway, Consipuous example: NPR - Originally they were portrayed as above the fray, providing quality broadcasting free from commercial interests in return for constantly begging - excuse me, soliciting - for donations. Today their TV/cable programming seems to have as many ads (including the “donation requests”) as commercial TV. Little-known fact: NPR has become the largest podcast producer. Now beholden to large advertisers, NPR is heavily promoting RAD, a podcast analytics standard for podcasters and podcast client apps that would be intrusive, rob listeners’ privacy through data collection and probable eventual tracking. (Details discussed elsewhere in this forum, won’t repeat here)

Not a good track record for donations as a funding model.

Podcasting is in a good place, a bright star in today’s internet-based entertainment space. Lots of choices, not (yet) ruined by commercial interests and tacky, intrusive advertising or creepy data collection (lookin’ at you, Facebook). Consider all of the services that have been ruined by tacky, creepy or intrusive commercial interests: Email is full of spam, phone calls are replete with malicious or fraudulent calls, commercial television is hard to watch because of all the ads, Facebook is downright creepy. Now even NPR is headed in the wrong direction.

Support the “good guys” - the MPU podcasters and many others, and the “good guy” podcast apps. I hope they will choose the best funding source. It may not be donations, if the NPR example is followed.

1 Like

I like your rotating idea, @bowline. That makes a lot of sense.

I support podcasts that I listen to every week without exception: Mac Power Users and the MacCast.

I support podcasts that feature a diverse range of voices: SixColors.

I support podcasts that are investigating a crazy aspect of America that affects me directly but I don’t understand (health insurance): An Arm and A Leg

I support podcasts that reach a tiny niche that includes me: TradCafe.

There isn’t really a pattern to my choices, but there they are.


1 Like