Patreon and Subbable have a lot in common. They were both started by successful creators: Patreon was co-founded by Jack Conte of the indie band Pomplamoose, and Subbable is the work of Hank and John Green, the celebrity YouTube moguls known as the Vlogbrothers. (John Green is also an author of bestselling young adult novels.) They're both platforms that let other creators monetize their fan bases through voluntary subscriptions. And they launched within three months of each other in 2013.
Now they share one more thing: They're the same company. As of today, they're merging, with Patreon acquiring Subbable and bringing its 24 creators into its fold. "We're hesitant to even call it an acquisition because it feels like we're finally joining forces on a shared mission here," Conte says.
They've had an unusually cordial relationship from the start. As Conte was getting Patreon off the ground two years ago, he reached out to Hank Green to suggest he bring his ultra-popular YouTube channels, which include the edu-tainment series SciShow, Crash Course and Mental Floss, onto the platform. "He said,'Hey, I'd love to do that except I'm about three months in and a few thousand bucks into building that site myself," Conte recalls.
Rather than adopt a rival's stance, however, Green followed up by sending screenshots of the in-development Subbabe site to Conte so they could compare notes. "I couldn't wrap my head around why he'd do that," Conte says. After he came realize that Green cared more about giving creators new tools to fund their work without resorting to advertising than he did about adding yet another hit property to his portfolio, Conte responded in kind by inviting Green to be an advisor to Patreon. (John Green is also joining as an advisor.)
The two companies have grown along somewhat different trajectories. Led by the Greens' channels, Subbable's content lineup consists largely of educational and informational video series. YouTube channels of all kinds are Patreon's biggest category, but more than half of its content is web comics, podcasts, visual art, writing and games.
Patreon is also bigger, channeling more than $2 million a month from 225,000 "patrons" to more than 10,000 creators. Subbable's creators having been bringing in about $1 million a year through the platform.
The idea of merging the two sites arose at the end of last year when Amazon told users of its flexible payment service, including Subbable, that it was retiring that service and transitioning to a new one. To keep the subscribers they'd attracted, Subbable's creators would need to ask them to re-authorize their credit cards, a necessity that would almost certainly result in a high rate of attrition.
To fight the churn, Patreon is putting up $100,000 in matching funds to supplement the first $100,000 pledged to Subbable creators through Patreon. Conte and Green hope doubling the value of a pledge for a limited time will be enough of an incentive for fans to dig out their wallets a second time.
In the time since they launched, other players, including some pretty big ones, have come around to the idea of enabling creators to access fans' financial support in an ongoing way. YouTube announced a new fan funding program last year at Vidcon, a digital video conference started by the Greens, and Indiegogo recently came out with what it calls Forever Funding, a sort of open-ended crowd campaign.