Our Patreon Growth Experiment, Part Eight
Losing steam and taking our supporters for granted
We made a series of decisions, direct and oblique, that led to a potential setback on our dream — to be able to devote 100% of our time to Audio Fiction shows.
- We put The End of Time and Other Bothers into hiatus for two months
- Life got intense and we felt overwhelmed and unable to keep up
- We got caught up in launching a new show: Civilized
- Priorities became muddy and confused
The outcome of these pressures combined to create the following outcomes:
- Our #farlorianfriday posts were posted a day or two late
- We missed posting a #farlorianfriday for the first time in ten months
- Patreon benefit messages were delayed by up to a month or more
- There was a significant downturn in bonus content being released to our $5 and up Patreon supporters
It’s hard to put an exact timeframe on the above, but I believe all of this occurred over a 4 to 5 month timeframe.
I know we are not alone. It can be overwhelming.
So many of the creators I talk to and work with are in an endless battle to find the time to create, let alone manage their communities. And it’s so easy to fall off the content creation bandwagon on the best of days.
And while we knew this would come back to bite us, it wasn’t until the end of May that it really hit home.
The sudden downturn in revenue going into June is alarming and clearly the wake up call we needed, but I want to draw the reader’s attention to the bottom right of the chart where we can see that New and Increased Pledges had been in decline for over 5 months.
We could have seen this coming far sooner, but we didn’t. It took the drop in revenue and a surge in lost pledge notifications to wake us up. And it’s a great reminder that a drop in revenue will generally lag behind the loss of commitment to our communities, but be assured that the loss of revenue will come.
If you are just looking at the growing blue lines, it’s easy to miss signs of trouble.
In the above chart, we are interested in the trend line for the velocity or growth trajectory of new pledges. We can see that the trend line is close to level which is not a good sign. This means there is next to no month over month growth. Now let’s look at the trend line in December of 2018.
In this chart, you can see how the slope of the trend line is more severe. This means that in December we were showing greater velocity to our growth. We were in a healthier place.
We fell into the trap. Our Patreon was solid, our fans were exited about Other Bothers returning and we had a new show on the horizon. Life reared its head and we got distracted and busy. Frankly, we took our fans for granted.
It’s hard to write those words, but there’s truth in them.
This is not to belittle the feelings of insecurity, exhaustion or burnout that we can and do feel as creators.
It’s overwhelming to create this much content and with only so many hours in the day. Further, limited resources mean that we can’t hire someone and have to do just about everything ourselves. But none of this changes the facts. We let some balls slip and hit the floor. And while it took a few months, the piper came a calling.
What We Did Next
We knew that we had to refocus. We required new bonus material and weekly exclusive content all while trying to keep three shows actively in production.
Only there’s not a lot of ways to create more time in the day without spending money we didn’t have.
So we chose to create clarity out of the chaos. And by ‘we’, I mean Eli.
Eli transformed our production process overnight by creating a database in airtable.com that gives every piece of content an identifiable reference and attached the status, delivery dates, priority and more.
Just naming the items we had in production created an insane amount of clarity. And making all of this visible allowed us to better plan our time and spend way less time getting blindsided by last minute emergency requests for content.
Is tomorrow Friday? Shit, we need a #FarlorianFriday post!
Airtable also allows us to create more detailed views of our production schedule. I adore the In Progress view below as it sorts our production schedule by type of content. So I can see a list of episodes for one show or all bonus episodes in one place. And for the first time, I know what’s in the can and when we are going to run out. So I can better plan the recording schedule.
We now have a ton of content in the can, identified and waiting in the queue for post-production. And for the first time, we have multiple pieces completed, uploaded and scheduled for release well ahead of their launch date.
It’s likely we are going to have to work hard to earn back whatever trust we lost. I plan to do some extra heavy promotion across our channels of the new exclusive content we will be rolling out over the next few weeks. And there may be need for another boost like a Special Offer.
But first we are going to get our feet back under us and focus on getting ahead of the production beast for the first time in what feels like years.
Looking for the next part in this series?
Sean Howard is the co-creator with Eli McIlveen of Alba Salix, Royal Physician, the GM behind The End of Time and Other Bothers and an improviser in the hit sci-fi dark comedy Civilized. He can be reached via Twitter or email.