Taking your eyes off the ball

Our Patreon Growth Experiment, Part Nine

Perks that actually work

Sean Howard
Jul 24 · 7 min read

It’s not enough to have a good show and a Patreon page. Listeners expect something special for their contributions, and rightly so.

If you take one thing from this series, please let it be an understanding of what perks are worth everyone’s time.



Let me cut to the chase. You cannot half-ass the perks you offer. And yet, time and again, I come across audio fiction Patreon accounts with low-value perks chosen solely because they are easy to create.

I don’t know how to spell it out any clearer than I already have, but I’m going to try one more time.

Perks that don’t drive growth

  • Bloopers
  • Scripts
  • Production notes
  • Written short stories that build off your audio show
  • Versions of your already free to listen to show in higher quality
  • Versions of your already free to listen to show without ads

I’m not saying you can’t put these on your tiers. But don’t expect these perks to drive significant Patreon signups.

Perks that drive growth

  • Exclusive content: bonus episodes or an exclusive show for patrons.
  • Exclusive experiences: ability to play a game with your cast or join the show in some way.
  • Live access: the ability to listen to live recordings or special behind-the-scenes live access.
  • Exclusive merchandise: t-shirts, pins, stickers, recipes. Things only your patrons receive.

For a podcast, there is indeed a secret weapon that can drive the maximum support possible. It’s an exclusive show or patron-only episodes of an existing show. Almost nothing can top this.

I know how hard of an ask this is. Like many creators, I struggle to release our core shows on time, let alone an exclusive new show for patrons.

But that doesn’t change the reality. People that adore you and your show want more of the same. Deliver on that and they will find a way to support you.

The playing field is changing and expectations are going to rise, not fall. The people who will support you because you are an awesome person are going the way of the Dodo.

If you take one thing from this series, please let it be an understanding of what perks are worth everyone’s time.

Let’s Talk Definitely Human

The $5 Patreon tier from the much anticipated Pax Fortuna! from Definitely Human

The truly lovely and talented Definitely Human folks launched their new show Pax Fortuna! exclusively to their $5 and up supporters on a weekly basis for the first six months of 2019 starting in January. If you wanted to listen to this show, you had to become a supporter as it wouldn’t be available to the general public until July.

I couldn’t get enough of their last show, The Infinite Bad, and found myself on their Patreon page more than once checking in on how I could listen to the new show. The pressure to up my pledge was definitely there and unlike anything I had felt in some time.

I spoke with Maxamillian John of the Definitely Human crew and while they don’t have the data points to fully analyze the results, they feel like offering Pax Fortuna! exclusively for $5 patrons was a definite driver in their revenue growth earlier this year.

“It did kick our money up, but again it’s difficult to separate that from our normal growth reliably due to the small sample size.”

Let’s Talk Cocoa!

The Amelia Project is a true gem in the Audio Fiction space

I said it above. I don’t believe that show notes or written materials will be a significant tier reward for audio fiction podcasts. Time after time, they just don’t work to drive significant growth from patrons.

If there was an exception, I would have said it was The Amelia Project case files. I’ve never seen anyone so expertly execute this idea nor have such a perfect fit with the stories they were telling via audio.

In season 1, The Amelia Project offered written case files as a $5 Patreon perk to accompany each episodes.

Each case file was beautifully put together and told us what we really wanted to know after listening to each episode. They were well written and explored how the disappearances actually went down and even included puzzles and other themed elements.

These case files were involved and supported the cliffhanger in each episode. Brilliant!

These case files so impressed me that I reached out for an hour long interview with Pip and Øystein. More to come on this! They were kind enough to share a few of these case files with me. And all I can say is, Wow!

This is the single best execution of a written PDF perk in support of an audio fiction podcast that I’ve ever seen. I can’t even imagine the number of hours that went into creating each of these.

And guess what? They worked, but not as well as Pip and Øystein had hoped.

“The case files were a lot of fun to write. We were just figuring out what to offer. And we realized people want more audio.”

Screenshot of the first three tiers of their Patreon. Shows the new $5 tier for Season 2.
Screenshot of the first three tiers of their Patreon. Shows the new $5 tier for Season 2.

Starting in Season 2, The Amelia Project is now offering $5 and up patrons an exclusive audio minisode paired with each episode of the show. Just announcing the new perk saw an increase in $5 pledges.

Season 2 is just launching as I work to publish this article. Listen in and you will hear them promoting these minisodes off the top of the episodes. Another thing they learned, but more on that later.

I expect this will return significant dividends for a team that deserves nothing less.

Give Me The Quant!

The short and long of it is that the author reached the same conclusion after reviewing the top earners on Patreon, “Every one of them gives bonus episodes for Patreon supporters.”

Don’t let up

We have worked hard at Fable and Folly Productions to create exclusive perks for our fans, but the summer caught us off guard. I had to shut down some companies and take a part-time job and this led to less prioritization of my time on our Patreon and our fans. To make a bad situation worse, my partner and I fell significantly behind on the release of the next season of one of our shows.

And the results are clear to see on the chart at the top of this article.

Deliver and Delight

This is no longer about standing out among the other independent creators. It’s now about competing with big companies with big pockets and lots of staff and resources.

Some want to lament the death of independent audio fiction. Others want to attack the big companies together with those independent creators who are “selling out” and trying to make a living from their art.

Instead, we need to be asking ourselves better questions, now more than ever.

How important is each listener? How important is each supporter? And what can we do to deliver value to these groups?

***

Sean Howard is the co-creator with Eli McIlveen of Alba Salix, Royal Physician and you can can see all of their shows at Fable and Folly Productions. He can be reached via Twitter or email or on his sexy new website.

Thanks to Eli McIlveen

Sean Howard

Written by

Sean writes and produces 3 audio dramas in the world of Alba Salix at http://www.albasalix.com including The End of Time and Other Bothers at otherbothers.com

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