Friday June 23, 2017
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Editorial: Would a Patreon Model for RapReviews Work?
Posted by Steve Juon at Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article



Editorial courtesy of Steve 'Flash' Juon.

[Patreon logo from Wikimedia Commons]The monthly cost of webhosting exceeds the amount of ad revenue generated by this site. There are a variety of reasons for this problem, not the least of which is that hip-hop music and culture has not been deemed "advertiser friendly," which is the current industry jargon that has gone mainstream thanks to the recent uproar over popular YouTube channels losing their ad revenue. To some degree I've tried to make this website "play the game" by self-censoring my language in reviews and editing content in reviews when they get flagged by Google AdSense, but it simply isn't enough.

With an archive of over 7,000 articles, we are in the position of being too big to be on a small hosting platform, but our revenue being too small to afford what we now have. And let's be fair about the fact I share some of the blame for this. I've not streamlined or optimized our site in the ways I could have before now. The current design doesn't scale well to mobile devices either, and that's where a lot of the ad dollars are now coming from, since people surf the web from their iPads and smartphones as much (or arguably more) than they do in front of monitors and keyboards. There's been some work going on quietly behind the scenes with members of our team to address both this issue and modernize the look of the site. Our plan is to hopefully roll that out by the end of 2017, but because of the fact we're financially upside down on RR right now, the progress is going slowly as we all have second jobs that come first. My work as a sports writer interviewing fighters keeps the ship upright.

That's why I've recently come to the conclusion that a Patreon model for the site may be necessary. The idea struck me when one of our regular readers contacted me about some albums we haven't covered he wanted to see us tackle, and I was forced for the thousandth time to say "If we had the money and the time to do it, we'd all cover everything." It occurred to me right then and there -- if this is what our readers want why not offer it? I'm prepared to take the site to a Patreon supported model and the threshold for making it viable is far lower than I first though. Here's a brief summary of what I see as the goals we'd need to hit and the perks we could offer.

* 50 contributors at $5 per month. At this level all advertising goes away. That's right, ALL OF IT. We wouldn't need it any more because your patronage would completely cover the cost of the webhosting even with Patreon taking a percentage off the top. Besides faster loading times for the website with no ads, this has the subsidiary benefit of loosening the grip that "advertiser friendly" content currently has. No more censorship of profanity in reviews, and no more self-censorship for any of the staff in terms of what they want to talk about. We'd break the chains and be able to write the content that you want to read the most.

* 100 contributors at $5 per month. Every staffer gets a stipend every month that's been guaranteed by you the readership, which provides a much more worthwhile incentive to write than simply "for the love of hip-hop" or "the exposure" that we all currently pay ourselves with in lieu of actual money. If you like what our staff does when they have the time to do it, the quality of the work they do, isn't it a win/win to know they get your support? It would certainly increase the frequency with which we can all contribute reviews when it's possible to make supplementary income from the work. It's easier to find time to write when it pays.

* 200 contributors at $5 per month. This is the point at which things really start flowing because we could open up a Patreon backer tier where supporters can make specific requests and we honor them. Even if that requires us hunting down a copy of a rare or obscure album, there'd be a budget to do so. At this level we can also start supporting staffers who want to travel to events to interview artists and either shoot them as YouTube exclusives for the site (ad free since we're member supported) and write up an article with their thoughts and the videos embedded. Obviously we're not getting exclusives with Kanye or Killer Mike at this level, but we're moving in the right direction.

* 500 contributors at $5 per month. At this level RapReviews is officially my full time job and every active staffer is well compensated for their work. We can buy a more robust webhosting platform than we currently have if needed. We can start to expand the team and bring in talent to do even more interviews, reviews, and features. Physical perks become part of our Patreon rewards. You want RR hats and t-shirts? If this is my full time J.O. that's something I can make happen. I'll get them designed, I'll pay to have them printed, and I'll ship them out to supporters. If you want RapReviews to go to SXSW and similar festivals to bring you all access coverage, we're there. Travel expenses are officially a realistic option for members of the team.

* 1,000 contributors at $5 per month. Obtainable? I don't know. It's less than the cost of Netflix per month, or two cups of coffee at Starbucks, so there might just be a thousand loyal readers who can pledge at this level. At this point we open a physical office with a digital studio to film daily content, and hire somebody to handle the Patreon side of things with honoring our physical perks and backer requests. It's a little "pie in the sky" to be sure but anything at this level and on up means we can be 100% fan driven, never compromise a single thing for an advertiser, and even give back to the local community and larger hip-hop community through our home office as a base of operations.

Now how many of you would be down to see this happen? Even if only 50 people bought in at $5 a month, advertising goes away forever. I've got to believe there are at least 50 people who would like that to happen. I know I would.

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