As you might know, an important part of my income for TOP are the recurring donations that regular readers make through Patreon. As the camera market shrinks, competition proliferates, and advertising stagnates, this has become an increasingly important part of what enables me to continue to write and edit The Online Photographer.
Last week, Patreon announced drastic fee changes that disproportionately affected small donors. This triggered the disapproval of many of my supporters, a number of whom cancelled their pledges as a result.
I'm happy to pass along the announcement that Patreon will NOT be implementing the fee changes it announced last week. Patreon has issued a retraction and an apology: "We messed up. We're sorry, and we're not rolling out the fees change."
I know it's likely that some people who have cancelled their pledges will not restore them, but for all the rest of you who might have been concerned by the news, I hope this will enable you to continue your ongoing support of TOP. You are very kind, and you have my thanks.
[UPDATE: I came down this morning to find 11 restored or new pledges on Patreon, several of them for several dollars. Big thanks to all! Rollercoaster week for me, although not much of it has popped up above the waves into public view.
I'm also very grateful to learn today that I'm in the top 2% of Patreon creators who earns minimum wage from it. I barely qualify, but I do. It doesn't make up for the decline in my income since 2013—the year after the camera market peaked—but I think I can honestly say it is delaying the inevitable day when I will have to make a decision about TOP's future.
Along these lines, Jeff Keller, who used to own and operate a photographers' website called DCResource, where he wrote about digicams, published an article on DPReview, where he works now, about the lifespan of his website. It's called "Throwback Thursday: the ups and downs of running DCResource." His readership peaked in 2006:
Mine peaked in 2013.
Jeff, who was one of the people I admired from afar and tried to model myself on in my early days, says in the article that by 2011 the decline in his income was "...starting to hurt. I started tapping into my savings (gotta pay the mortgage) so it became obvious that it was time to get back into the workforce and resume running my website on the side."
Well, I started tapping into my savings sometime last year. Obamacare made it possible for me to get health insurance finally, but it's my third biggest expense (after #1, taxes, and #2, mortgage), and, expensive as it is already, it's likely to go up sharply soon. That and self-employment taxes are the biggest burdens in doing what I do. Jeff comments that "running a digital camera website for almost 15 years was an unusual thing to have on your resumé." I've said many times that my ambition when I started TOP was to keep it going for one year, but I think a good goal now is to see if I can make 15, like Jeff did with DCResource. We're in year 12 as I write this.
I have one big advantage Jeff didn't...and that is Patreon. It is buffering the decline and making it rational to soldier on. To a significant degree, it's the Patreon donations that are keeping the site operational, flattening out the right side of that "hill-shaped" curve in the graph above and delaying any unhappy ending. It's probably time to start figuring out what to do for a living in my declining years (as I like to joke, "my retirement plan is to keep working"), but hopefully Patreon will enable me to reach Year 15 and who knows, maybe beyond. ("To seek out new frontiers; to boldly go where no Mike has gone before"...I think that was it.)
If anybody contributes even a dollar a month through Patreon, don't think it's nothing. It's a big something. Thanks to all!]
Thanks the reader who sent me the link to Jeff's article, even though I don't remember who it was. I see literally hundreds of names pass before my eyes every day, and my brain is shrinking. :-)
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Steve Rosenblum: "I'm very glad to hear that. When I heard about the proposed fee changes I thought it would very likely hurt creators like you. Here is a good summary of what happened from NPR."
Andy Munro: "Mike, I'm very happy to be a contributor. I feel I get a great deal out of my subscription—a daily post targeted at photographers. All of this for around a couple of cups of coffee a month. Can I say that the Patreon advert being orange on a yellowy orange background doesn't stand out that much, a black border perhaps? Lastly, there was no link in your article to Patreon for those wishing to renew their subscription."
Mike replies: Here's a link to Patreon.
bruce alan greene: "Mike, is there a way a reader can donate to The Online Photographer without signing up for a recurring subscription? I don't buy much stuff online, so the links don't help here. :-) Thanks!"
Mike replies: A few very kind souls send checks in the mail, but others use PayPal, at my only email address, mcjohnstonatmacdotcom.