Patreon CEO Jack Conte is fed up with Instagram and Facebook – TechCrunch

Before being the founder and CEO of Patreon, Jack Conte was a musician, mostly posting videos of his songs on YouTube (which he still does).

Now, at the head of a company that helps creators earn a predictable monthly income from fan memberships, Conte is pissed at Meta. As Facebook and Instagram make changes to emphasize algorithmic curation, even the Kardashians have rallied to get the platform to “stop trying to be TikTok.”

“I realize I’m a bit biased as CEO of Patreon here. I understand, but it’s a big deal for creators,” Conte said of the move to AI-rich streams in an Instagram reel. last week. “We’ve spent years investing in these platforms, building followers, building communities, and these changes remind us once again that it’s not our followers, it’s Facebook users. “

Meta’s relentless imitation of TikTok has been causing angst among creators for some time, especially after Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the platform was no longer just a photo-sharing app .

“Instagram makes photography to video seem like a separate thing from algorithmic curation, but that’s not quite true,” Conte said.

He’s right – promoting videos over photos is, by nature, an algorithmic decision. Although Zuckerberg said our time spent watching reels increased by 30% quarter-over-quarter, that could just be because we’re getting more and more video content on our streams.

I actually think the issues are quite related, because when you focus on the platform mitigating the relationship between creator and subscriber, you’re basically giving the platform the power and responsibility to decide what to send to who, when,” Conte explained. “And that’s the part that makes me angry as a creator. Because I spent years, decades building communities on these platforms.

After such widespread backlash, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the social network would roll back some of its changes, including its testing of a TikTok-like full-screen feed and its increase in algorithmically recommended posts.

“I doubt the rollback is long term,” Conte told TechCrunch. “I think they’re trying to figure out what to do [over] like, the next few weeks, the next few months.

Vapid decision-making among Meta executives seems a bit closer to theater than receiving constructive feedback from users. After all, while Mosseri was making those claims, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had just announced on a tough Meta earnings call that algorithmically recommended content would double on Facebook and Instagram by the end of next year.

“I believe Instagram is committed to algorithmic discovery, just like Meta,” Conte said. “I think they’ve committed to basically moving from a subscriber priority model to an algorithmically curated model, because I think that’s what they consider to be one of their key weaknesses versus to TikTok.”

Apparently every social platform has tried to emulate TikTok in some way, which makes sense – clearly the app is doing something right to capture the public’s attention, as it has reached 1 billion users assets per month faster than any other platform. TikTok kickstarted the careers of countless creators by algorithmically promoting lesser-known personalities on its For You page, but even once you’ve built an audience, it’s hard to make money from TikTok alone. A TikToker with 36,000 followers told TechCrunch they only make “between $1 and $6” a month from the TikTok Creator Fund, so they rely on brand deals, partnerships and payments instead other social platforms to generate revenue.

So when Meta imitates TikTok, they are imitating a platform that is still trying to figure out how to properly compensate creators. This problem is compounded because on algorithmic feeds like TikTok — and now, Instagram and Facebook — there’s no guarantee your followers will actually see what you post, making it harder to connect with them. YouTube also faced backlash when it stopped automatically notifying subscribers of new channel uploads.

To navigate the constant changes in algorithms and creator funds, Conte urges creators to diversify their revenue streams.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one company’s basket,” Conte said in his Instagram video. Of course, Patreon itself is a shopping cart, and one misstep can seriously implicate creators who rely on the platform for monthly payouts. Some creators have worried that Patreon’s open curiosity about web3 could alienate subscribers who (understandably) see blockchain technology as a vessel for elaborate scams. (For the record, Conte told TechCrunch that encryption features aren’t “on the roadmap” at this time). But that’s one more reason why Conte’s advice to creators makes sense.

“I’m not going to stand up in front of the creators and say you should bet everything in your career on Patreon,” Conte said. “Of course you shouldn’t. You should function as a smart businessman and create a Patreon, sell products, generate ad revenue, and build an email list.

With Instagram piloting its own in-app subscription product, now might seem like an opportune time for Patreon’s CEO to slam a competitor.

“Strategically, of course, we’re paranoid about it and thinking about it, but we’re not losing sleep about it,” Conte said of Instagram creator followings.

According to data from SimilarWeb, Patreon receives very little traffic from Facebook and Instagram – the majority of the website’s social media traffic comes from YouTube. In Patreon’s own survey of its creators, the platform found that 38% of respondents worked primarily in video, followed by 17% in writing and 14% in audio. Conte also thinks Patreon’s subscription business has an edge over Instagram as she claims to be creator first.

“Instagram has a fundamental choice to make,” Conte said. “Are we building a place where people can build deep, intimate and lasting relationships with each other? Or are we building this high-end, mass-media, algorithmic curation platform? »

For now, it looks like Meta has chosen the latter. This dichotomy also invites platforms to choose between what is best for creators and what is best for their bottom line. It doesn’t have to be a mutually exclusive choice, but Meta’s ad-first business model makes it that way.

“I believe that platforms and companies that respect the transition and evolution towards creative people will ultimately win,” Conte said. “Tome, it feels like the creators of Meta Fighting in the long run, instead of respecting that the creators are running the show now. And that, I don’t think is a winning strategy.

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