As you probably heard, Penny Arcade started a KickStarter to help fund the site by bringing back and adding new features while removing ads, but what you probably don’t know is that I seriously considered this route (for this site) before I launched the paywall. I was essentially going to start a campaign to fund this site, ad free with perks, for an entire year of my full time writing.

However, two things held me back:

  1. I believed such a campaign to be against the ToS for a KickStarter campaign — Penny Arcade proves me wrong there.
  2. I didn’t think it would be successful given the size of this site — and seeing how Penny Arcade struggled to get to $500k, I think I was right (I would have needed over $100k).
  3. Future revenue.

What’s interesting to me is just how many people were willing to pay Penny Arcade to essentially do, well, nothing.

As Marco Arment notes:

Most of the original-content goals were not reached, and they’ll have ads on other pages on the site, just not the front page.

I really feel like this type of a KickStarter should not have been allowed. This is a “fund my life” type of campaign and if you don’t think that, at the very least you have to agree that it is very much a “start a new business campaign” — both not in compliance with KickStarter, but again they let it through so oh well.

(What’s funny is that almost every KickStarter campaign is a “start a new business” campaign even though that is prohibited.)

Honestly I don’t think this should have been allowed because backers get next to nothing for their money — I am strongly in the camp that it should have been all or nothing: remove all ads, or none. This “remove ads on the homepage” is deceptive, and I bet a lot of backers didn’t know it was only for the homepage.

Beyond all that, though, what the hell happens next year?

That’s the third reason I held back from KickStarting this site — what happens when the money is gone and I need to find someway to make money again? Penny Arcade will have to either run another campaign in a year, or they will have to put the ads back. If I was a backer that would piss me off. Which is exactly why I avoided such a scenario on this site. I had planned to say that with every ~$100k above the funding goal, I would write the site full-time for another year.

However, if you consider that I had roughly 8,300 RSS subscribers at the time, to fund the site for two years would have meant that every subscriber would have needed to back the site at a price of at least $25 — that’s without getting any extra perks. That’s highly unlikely to happen for a site like mine — this isn’t a complaint, but I share this data as an eye opener of what things really cost.

The Penny Arcade campaign feels to me like a bad solution to a tough problem. I have no doubt that Penny Arcade has the best intentions, but I also have no doubt that there are going to be a lot of disappointed backers — now and a year from now.


Posted by Ben Brooks