I’m all for new funding platforms that disintermediate the traditional corporate gatekeepers, but we may be reaching market saturation at this point.
Just this year, we’ve seen an explosion in interest new direct-to-creator payment platforms such as Gumroad, Patreon, TinyPass and many more. The idea is to basically empower the creator by letting them monetize without spending the money to create an expensive website or have to rely on a large media brand in order make money.
The newest platform? Beacon, a journalist-focused platform that allows for direct support of journalists in a patron-model that allows folks to pick a journalist and direct payment to them. It’s a bit like Patreon in that it allows for recurring payments instead of a Kickstarter-like one-time payment, but the twist is it creates a pool of money for other writers to share. The upshot for readers is that they can then have access to work by other writers, creating essentially hodge-podge of content in a community-funded website.
In a sense it takes a Major League Baseball like sharing-for-the-commons approach where the more popular (and profitable) writers will likely create the lion’s share of revenue in a community shared profit-pool. Think of a big name writer like, say, Michael Lewis, as the New York Yankees while others would be more akin to the Kansas City Royals or (ouch) the Seattle Mariners.*
I think it’s a novel approach, but I have to wonder if there is enough interested readers willing to pay to sustain the business. I also have to wonder if a big-brand journalist like a Michael Lewis would want to give up 40% of the total revenue (as compared to, say, 5% on Gumroad) and subsidize other writers.
My feeling is… maybe. In the end, there might be enough big named writers who feel being part of a collective worth the sacrifice. However, in the end the best hope for Beacon may be to get enough mid-listers to create enough value for consumers where they begin to see Beacon as essentially an “NPR” for writers, where patronage becomes as much driven by the collective value rather than that of just a few “stars”.
*update: Upon further reflection, the profit-sharing model is closer to NFL than MLB (which is largely done using a payroll tax and since MLB teams don’t share local cable revenues)