Blog4: Regulation: Encryption, Paywalls, and Takedowns
Afdian: For Passion
Afdian, 爱发电, means “Love Generates Power” in Chinese, is a platform which carries thousands of pages that connect creators with their loyal fans. It is a relatively new example of the so-called C2C business model, similar to Patreon. They both allow users to publish all kinds of self-created artistic works and cultural products. Creators can customize their membership rights, and earn long-run profits from their supporters through the platform. By paying the creator some money every month or just for once, fans can express their appreciation and admiration of the works. They may also get a chance to communicate with the creator in this way. Afdian will take 6% commission. Basic functions of Afdian include monthly membership system, exclusive content for paid members, closer fan communities…… Users can pay as desired to get all different kinds of exclusive rights they may want — paid content, early access, featured goods, a letter of appreciation, chances to discuss with the creator…… or, simply giving the creator some financial support.
“1000 True Fans” theory was proposed in an essay by Kevin Kelly in 2008. Basically, it claims that with Internet, individual creators can make a living with only a relatively small group of loyal fans. Drawing large audiences on mass media is no longer the only way for content creators to survive. In essence, it is trying to demonstrate the feasibility of C2C commercial model, that “big middleman” can be cut out. Platforms like Patreon and Afdian are exactly some successful examples of this theory.
“Can your hobbies really make you a living?”
This is a question that has been frequently asked about this kind of platform. Staff from Patreon may give you a positive answer. However, it is impossible for most of people to achieve, practically speaking. Only a few top creators are able to earn a substantial revenue by their creation.
“Finally, ‘starving’ and ‘artist’ no longer need to be joined at the hip,” according to Patreon, in one of its many positive blog posts about its successful creators. But Patreon seems to know that most of its creators are actually making a pittance. In 2016, Patreon boasted that 7,960 users were now making over $100 a month, which struck me as such an insignificant monthly income to brag about. Around the same time, the company reportedly had 25,000 creators, meaning only 31 percent of Patreon’s users were making over a hundred bucks.Brent Knepper , NO ONE MAKES A LIVING ON PATREON
Afdian faces the same, or even worse situation — only a few top creators have over 1000 supporters every month. Most of them already had a huge social media influence in the first place, namely, they rely on their original fan base. For example, in comics section, the top artists were all well known by their high-quality fan arts before coming to Afdian. Their fans deeply recognize, appreciate, and trust in their creativity, and thus never hesitate to pay and support them. The interesting thing is, on Afdian, the most rewarding comics artist doesn’t set any paid content, nor membership rights. The only support option is ¥10(=$1.5)/month, nothing in return. All of her original works are fully published and easily accessible by anyone anytime. This represents the unique culture of Afdian — most creators never aim to monetize their creation. They create for passion. Afdian’s name already reveals it. 爱发电, derives from a Chinese popular jargon of a cultural phenomenon, 为爱发电, which means “generating power only for love”, referring to a spontaneous devotion to the things someone loves (in forms of any kind of creation) without expecting anything in return. Although Afdian is a platform that helps creators to earn some profits, most of its users identify with this “non-profit” culture. In response to the previous question, most creators here never expect to make a living by their creations. They are willing to keep creating new things even though the revenue can hardly cover the cost, because they do this for passion. What Afdian truly offers its creators is not a place to earn money, but a place to present themselves, a place to get closer to their loyal fans — the ones who share the same taste, interests and passion with them, the ones who understand them the most.
In general, creators choose Afdian for the following reasons:
- To seek for acceptance, support and identity from a small fan community.
With a little paywalls, fans will feel more entitled and free to further communicate with the creators they admire. (Chinese are often very restrained even online.) A real bridge is built between fans and creators through in-depth discussions. Suggestions from the most loyal fans is also very helpful to improve the quality of works. Creators will feel very motivated to continue creating new works with that sense of achievement and recognition.
- Freedom of of Creation.
Afdian Team almost has no regulation on the content (except for basic censorship) , which granted the creators full freedom to create whatever they like. (However, the weak control model inevitably leads to weak promotion effect. That’s why basically the creators can only rely on their original fan base if they really want to make some money.)
- Friendliness to minority culture.
Usually, content on minority culture can hardly be favored by mass media and advertisers because of its few audiences they can attract. It is very difficult for such works to be exposed and found without Afdian. What’s more, minority culture lovers tend to maintain the amicable and inclusive microclimates on their own initiatives. It makes Afdian a wonderful place for fans and creators of minority culture.
Takedowns and Censorship
A Safe Haven for Adult Content ?
NSFW, Not Safe For Work, the category that refers to adult content on Patreon, was a safe haven for a lot of pornography arts and porn games.
“Patreon has a reputation for having long been a digital haven of sorts for creative types who operate in the gray area between sex work and artistic production. As the open letter points out, Patreon pushed back when payment processors like PayPal tried to ban adult content creators on the platform from using their services. For these reasons and others, adult content creators believed the platform was supportive of their work.”Caroline O’Donovan, Patreon Updated Its Rules On Adult Content, And NSFW Content Creators Are Worried
However, by the end of October, 2017, Patreon Updated Its Rules On Adult Content, And NSFW Content Creators Are Worried. In an email to adult content creators, Patreon CEO Jack Conte said that the new language simply clarified its existing policy on pornography.
“We did update four (and only four) areas of our actual content policy: incest, bestiality, sexual depiction of minors, and suggestive sexual violence. If you’re just reading the headlines, you’ll be under the impression that we’re ‘cracking down on adult content.’ Again, this is not what’s actually happening,” he wrote.
Apparently, Patreon was not taking down all the adult content, but it still created a huge damage to its adult content community.
By contrast, censorship on adult content has been widely implemented throughout almost every website and online service in China. Afdian, as a platform that only has a relatively small group of users, hasn’t been paid too much attention to by the government censorship authority. Online porn industry is also very underdeveloped because of the strict government regulation, and the generally low social acceptance to porn. So we can hardly see any paid adult content on Afdian even thought it was not specifically forbidden by the platform. Nevertheless, censorship is extremely strict on mass social medias like Weibo and Lofter, where many creators use to post their original articles, paintings or comics for fun. However, the censorship is so strict and sensitive that any content related to sex, bloodiness, violence or religion can be banned or deleted immediately, as long as the work gets a certain amount of exposure. Because of that, Afdian becomes some creators’ archive. Here, they don’t need to worry that much about those takedowns that could happen anytime without even notice.