I’ve once again been contemplating options for monetizing the site to keep it (and me) alive, which brings me back to the Patreon idea. This is something that people have suggested for years, and I’ve always been wary of it, but I wonder if it might be a better idea than I had thought. One big advantage of Patreon is that it’s opt-in, and is not (insofar as I understand it) dependent on harvesting unwitting visitors’ personal data for ad profiling purposes — I aggressively block most online advertising myself, and such advertising can now have complicated legal implications. Patreon also appears to offer much greater flexibility and platform support for options such as recurring payments (something that’s theoretically possible but legally and administratively stressful with PayPal).

However, there are a lot of questions to wrestle with:

  1. I’m very reluctant to put articles behind a paywall. It wouldn’t be in my commercial or professional interests — with content whose appeal is already somewhat rarefied, I might as well just bury it in the desert at that point — and if my goal is to expand the general understanding or address misconceptions about a topic, making the content harder to access seems counterproductive.
  2. I don’t know if readers would have any interest in “bonus content” for Patreon subscribers, or what kind. I took a stab at creating “author’s notes” for the two most recent articles, which ended up amounting to rather verbose section-by-section footnotes; whether anyone would want those on top of the already-lengthy existing articles, I dunno. (They seem like they would be of most interest to someone researching their own book or paper.)
  3. I’m not sure what kind of content schedule I could reasonably commit to. Patreon, like most Internet content models, presumably works best with regularly scheduled, frequent updates, which I’m not sure is realistic for Ate Up With Motor. The fuel injection and Jetfire/Corvair turbo articles proceeded at a relatively brisk pace given their length and complexity, but the former involved three or four weeks of more or less full-time work (which isn’t always feasible), while the latter took around 10 weeks at a slightly less feverish pitch. There is of course the possibility of aiming for shorter chunks of content that aren’t as time-consuming to research and write, but this raises the question of whether it should be specifically for Patreon (which gets back to the paywall issue) or whether it would be better to treat Patreon as a supplement/alternative to the existing PayPal button rather than as a separate content outlet.
  4. I don’t know to what extent there’s still actually an audience. I feel like the most substantive thing I have to contribute in the realm of automotive writing is actually doing my homework, or trying to; for instance, a lot of my research for the fuel injection article involved poring through sources while muttering, “That seems wrong,” or “That doesn’t make chronological sense,” and then trying to distill those pieces into a coherent, factually consistent narrative. This isn’t something that lends itself to short and punchy 800-word essays with clickbait headlines, which is what the Internet most rewards; that’s fine, but when it comes to Ate Up With Motor, my assumption is that if people wanted a quick summation, they’d just read the Wikipedia article. However, this is an admittedly esoteric approach to already-esoteric topics, which at times leaves me feeling like Bertie Wooster’s newt-fancier friend Gussie Fink-Nottle. Is there still a place for that? Again, I dunno.

I welcome any thoughts or suggestions, particularly from people who’ve used Patreon (either as a patron or as a creator).


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  1. Autopian seems to be surviving with a multilevel membership option while still posting plenty of free content. Maybe the key is figuring out the optimal free/paid content ratio–maybe 80/20?

  2. I think Patreon would be a great idea. You might not have the most consistent schedule but it would at least be some money coming in and could give you some room to play around with shorter-form stuff to fill in those gaps if you felt so inclined – your thoughts on current automotive industry happenings, maybe even non-automotive stuff, that sort of thing. Maybe not your style, but definitely worth thinking about!

    1. Perhaps embarrassingly, I haven’t even been following industry news since before the pandemic started. I’ve never felt like that was a viable direction for Ate Up With Motor, mainly insofar as I don’t think it would get any traction compared to bigger auto news outlets, but I used to try to keep track of what was happening product-wise. However, my personal interest has waned since the domestic automakers decided that they aren’t going to even try to sell anything but trucks and crossovers anymore (plus the Corvette and Mustang, and they’ve even made a gruesome crossover out of the latter) and even the non-U.S. OEMs that still deign to offer actual cars have drifted awfully far afield from my own tastes. So, I don’t know that I have much to say on that front other than sort of spitting into the wind, which I fear is not too edifying.

  3. What about early release of content for patrons? It’s still go public, but paying members might get a week to see it before everyone else and help correct typos.

    1. I thought about that, but setting up workable early access would likely be troublesome, both for me and for patrons. The least cumbersome approach for doing that would be to set up an article here, password-lock it, and then make the password available to patrons for a specific period of time. In principle, WordPress can do that, although support for password-locking is not robust because it’s not really a core function (WordPress is more suited for a logged-in-user/non-logged-in-visitor split, but doing that in this scenario would be cumbersome, and there a number of strong reasons I’m reluctant to institute user registration). Also, doing that would likely have a negative impact on the content’s subsequent search engine visibility — it’s hard to tell search engine robots, “Come back on the 25th!”

      This is part of why I was thinking more about bonus content like the author’s notes I wrote. Those could be more easily posted TO Patreon so that the platform can manage access without my having to fuss with it.

      I should probably mention that one of the concerns I have about posting stuff directly on Patreon is that the existing terms under which I use images from third parties might not permit it. For instance, my Image Authorization Form intentionally frames the grant of license “with the understanding that Ate Up With Motor will not publish, publicly display, or otherwise distribute the Images by any other means or sublicense the Images to any other website or entity (except as specifically required to use, publish, and display the Images on the Ate Up With Motor website, and/or for routine backup and/or other administrative purposes) without my prior authorization.” Editorial use authorizations from corporate archives might involve similar problems. So, for Patreon-specific content, I would have to stick to text and images that are either actually created by me or available under a Creative Commons license that permits commercial use (in which case the platform generally doesn’t matter so long as the license terms are observed).

  4. I pay for several creators on Patreon, most of whom simply release content early for Patreon subs but all of whom still release to the public after some time.

    If you aren’t going to post regularly (and your stuff is way too complex to set an expectation), there at least used to be an option where I only pay when you post content, and if that is the case I would gladly put up per article, or per month regardless of content.

    I’ve seen creators I follow pause payments when personal things come up and they won’t be working on content, but I’ve never considered that to be required of the creator. This is about my budget and enjoyment of things, not really about getting the most out of my dollar. I’ve gotten tons of value out of your articles for free for years. I would guess others feel the same way.

    I vote at a minimum you simply set it up and allow whatever money you can get to come in. No other work needed.

    You don’t owe the customer tiers, but if the idea interests you here are things I have seen: Tell us what articles you have in-progress. Let us vote on what interests us (out of that in-progress list). Post behind-the-scenes content about how you do your research. Post the in-progress article snippets. You would be shocked at how simple we are and how easy we are to keep happy.

    Thank you for all of the years of content!

    1. Agreed with all of this. I’d happily subscribe per article.

      Also, your archive is of such value – I wish I could think of a good way to monetize it; I’m sure you’ve tried.

  5. What about leaving all content free but adding a recurring donation option? I’ve supported Curbside Classic since they rolled out their “premium subscription” option, which provides no additional content and only removes ads that I was already blocking. I understand that it costs a little bit of money to make this sort of thing sustainable and am happy to share the equivalent of what I would have spent to get high-quality longform writing in magazines of years past.

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