My apologies for the overly long title this week, but for webcomics, this week is turning into a steaming pile of bantha poodoo (if you’ll also pardon my mixed pop culture references).
One major part we’ve known has been coming for some time. Tomorrow, the Federal Communication Commission will vote on Chairman Pai’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality. I’ve talked before about how bad this will be for both webcomic creators and readers. Pai has openly dismissed the 21 million + comments people have submitted on the matter, as well as those comments from experts like Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf—two of the men who literally invented the internet—who point-blank said the proposal “is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology.”
Making things worse, Pai announced this week an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission in which the FCC will abdicate its authority over internet regulations to the FTC. Except the FTC’s jurisdiction here is under consideration by the federal courts, which means that, if they find the FTC has no jurisdiction here, then there will be literally no agency with any oversight over internet providers.
This is what’s getting voted on tomorrow, and all signs points to this horrible proposal passing 3-2.
To add insult to injury, Patreon—the crowd-funding platform heavily favored by webcomikers—announced recently that they will be changing the fee structure beginning on the December 18. They’re heavily shifting processing fees away from the creators and on to the patrons, and taking a higher percentage in the process. This is especially noticeable at the lower tier levels changing, for example, a $1 per month pledge to $1.38. Furthermore, each pledge will be processed separately, so someone who pledges $100 a month to one creator would pay $103.25, whereas someone who pledges $1 a month to 100 creators would pay $137.90.
Not surprisingly, a lot of creators quickly got very concerned that many of their supporters—many of whom contribute only at the lowest levels—will simply leave. And sure enough, many creators started seeing patrons leave almost immediately. The new system seems to be harm the big name creators who are already bringing in thousands of dollars each month the least, but the only group that seems to benefit from this change is Patreon shareholders. Although, if this patron exodus continues, even that benefit will be short-lived.
Kickstarter has launched a similar platform called Drip that might be able to replace Patreon, but as of today, Drip remains invite-only. Smaller creators that rely heavily on Patreon currently will almost certainly experience a drop in income and, considering many are only skating by the skin of their teeth in the first place, this will be problematic to say the least. “Devastating” might be more accurate in many cases.
Webcomic creators are hardly the only group that’s severely negatively impacted by these awful news items; they’re both seemingly set up to actively hurt anyone trying to make it outside the confines of retail and/or an office cube farm. I’ve talked before why it’s important, particularly for freelance types, to keep several revenue streams running simultaneously and this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week is a perfect example of why.