My brother John and I started making online video around eight years ago. We’re most well-known for SciShow and CrashCourse, two free educational shows used in thousands of schools all over the world. We founded Subbable in part to help those shows (and other creators) reach sustainability. Meanwhile Jack had already created Patreon which had very similar goals and systems and, let’s face it, better leadership. So Patreon is acquiring Subbable.

Patreon’s co-founder, Jack Conte, will also be here to discuss our new partnership. He'll be replying to questions from /u/JackConte.

Jack’s a musician, filmmaker, one half of the band Pomplamoose, and co-founder of Patreon.

Obviously Jack and I are interested in future models for supporting independent creators (mostly ones that don’t involve heavy reliance on advertising) but we’re happy to answer any questions.

We share a common goal - to best help online communities and help support artists and creators so they can can not only survive, but thrive by doing what they love online.

Go ahead and AUA!

Here’s the link to my previous AMA on Reddit


Also, just wanted to let you know that Patreon is matching $100,000 of new pledges to Subbable creators on Patreon. They’re also giving away $100 of patronage on Twitter + FB. For more details, click here:

EDIT: Super Hungry...getting food. We'll be back to check on things a bit in the future, but this has been a fantastic time, thank you for all of your wonderful questions and thoughts.

Comments: 1780 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

Vedney1259 karma

Do you expect John hijack this AMA?

ecogeek1558 karma

Of course.

castmemberzack821 karma

I told you I would ask you this so here I go...

When will you and John move in together and start a 24/7 live stream?

ecogeek1435 karma

This would be a really great way to self-destruct our friendship.

justhewayouare41 karma

I am so freakin excited that my favorite people are getting together!! My husband and I have known Jack for five years now and he's so damn talented. Now add that to the BANG that is the Green brothers and it's a recipe for success :)

ecogeek82 karma

I think five years ago is when I first saw Pomplamoose in concert. I was playing a show in SF, and afterward they were right down the street playing their own show in what appeared to be a very fancy laundromat.

AngryCharizard584 karma

What do you think of CGPGrey's move addition of his videos to iTunes? Do you see any other youtubers making this move in the future out of safety for the longevity of their videos or for other reasons?

ecogeek448 karma

I think it's great. The more distribution systems out there the better. Every creator has such different goals and content and audience, all I want is to see people finding new ways to connect and create because the fertility that has created over the last 10 years is unprecedented.

mellowfish56 karma

I would love to see a trend of popular Youtubers doing this just to piss off Google.

IAmLuckyDuckling66 karma

why was it that he did that? like, i get redundancy, but his video made it seem like there's some sort of nefarious google thing going on. did i miss something?

ecogeek424 karma

Grey and Google have a long-standing...erm...tension. Basically, YouTube's algorithms weight creators who make content frequently. Grey makes one or two videos a month, so YouTube isn't super good at actually telling his subscribers when he's made a new video. This is frustrating.

mikeinabox383 karma

Hi Hank. It seems like a majority of people don't like the way their voice sounds on recordings. Are you in this group of people? If so, how did you get past that to be able to edit your videos?

ecogeek543 karma

I'm waaaay over this. I listen to myself all frikkin day. We did a SciShow on this topic though, if you want to learn more.

IAmLuckyDuckling350 karma

How's the book coming along Hank?

ecogeek647 karma

Slowly but surely. 33,000 words. My protagonist has gotten herself into an unpleasant situation, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. Maybe I should make a Patreon page for it! You can read un-finished chapters and tell me how awful I am!

TheBakedPotato319 karma

Hey Hank, as a long-time Vlogbrothers viewer, reading you type "we’re most well-known for SciShow and CrashCourse" sends me to the depths of bewilderment. How did it develop that these became your most well-known projects, and how important do you think crowdfunding was in that? Do you think your existing audience from Vlogbrothers etc. was essential in establishing them, or does their success come from elsewhere?

Sorry that that's several questions at once, hopefully it makes sense.

ecogeek356 karma

Yeah, I'm not actually sure if this is true, but mostly when I get stopped on the street it SciShow and Crash Course that people recognize me for. This is, however, terrible science. There's a huge sampling bias in only polling people who approach me in public.

Also, Vlogbrothers has had more views than both of those channels combined, but I get the feeling that those views come from the same core audience whereas SciShow and Crash Course are viewed fewer times by more people.

Oh, and I didn't answer your question. Yes, Vlogbrothers (and more specifically Nerdfighteria) was absolutely essential in establishing SciShow and Crash Course. The support of our community has been more than we could ever ask for.

theshinymew64319 karma

Who the eff is Hank?

TheBestOpinion532 karma

Did anyone also happen to know Hank before John ? I first discovered SciShow, then VlogBrothers and after a few months of wondering whether John was his boyfriend or his brother I realized he was also an author. Didn't know what book he wrote though, yet. So I was pretty shocked when I realized John had five times the amount of twitter followers his brother had. And then someone told me the book he wrote was called "The fault in our stars" and I shat a brick.

ecogeek433 karma

Yeah...we have a weird relationship with notoriety.

CanadianGladiator260 karma

When Subbable launched, you stated on Tumblr:

"1.Subbable and Patreon, while formed for the same purpose, solve the problem in different ways that I think make them useful to different kinds of creators

2.Even if they didn’t I think competition (and even fear, to some extent) is good for business because it drives innovation"

What caused you to change your mind and sell Subbable to Patreon?

ecogeek355 karma

First, Patreon started taking monthly pledges, which made the difference between the two platforms much smaller.

Second, over the last couple years, we've invested less and less in Subbable because: 1. We knew we were never going to make the money back 2. The differences between Patreon and Subbable had become so small that investing in Subbable seemed a little like re-inventing the wheel.

jeffnunn11 karma

Just going out on a limb here to guess it was $money$. Even awesome people can be swayed by it sometimes.

ecogeek54 karma

Seriously was not a lot of money. If you're looking for a selfish motive it's that Subbable never made money and we felt bad being leaders of company that couldn't afford to invest in the future of the creators who had put their faith in us. That's one reason among many, but it's certainly one.

thePlaj235 karma

Good morning, Hank; it's Monday.

I have been a Nerdfighter for a few years, and I usually get my daily dose of awesome at Nerdcrafteria. Have you considered doing some occasional content from the server on Games With Hank? We would love to see you around every once in a while!

Also, what did you have for breakfast today?

Thanks for the awesome!

ecogeek164 karma

I hopefully will be visiting Nerdcrafteria on GWH soon. And for breakfast I had a cherry pineapple smoothie. Not time for real food!

EDIT: I should have said...Nerdcrafteria is our minecraft server which is, itself, funded through crowd-funding (though it's server-side minecraft crowdfunding so probably not right for Patreon.)

leknarf52154 karma

Hank, what will it take to get the public to demand that the government should increase NASA's budget for both earth science and planetary science so that we can explore other worlds and save our own? Why is the public generally uninterested? In your opinion, of course.

ecogeek226 karma

I think, in order for America to be more interested in planetary and space science, more Americans need to be affluent and educated and, in order to accomplish that, we need a strong economy and social support systems (which is what we spend most of our money on) so I don't actually think we're doing a terrible job.

blaktron143 karma

Hi Hank,

Does the merger of Subbable and Patreon leave you and John with an ownership stake in Patreon, making them de-facto nerdfighters?

ecogeek182 karma

We did get a small stake in Patreon as part of the acquisition. So...yes?

messyhair42127 karma

Good morning Hank.

First, a housekeeping question, my second question deals with content distribution on the internet directly.

1) How will the Patreon subscriptions deal with the nature of subbable subscriptions, as in no content is hidden behind a paywall?

2) I understand why you're doing this, subbable is much smaller, amazon is changing payments, but my first reaction was that the internet just got a little smaller. I like having the choice, and that having more ways to support creators is better than fewer. How do you think things will change from here on out?

ecogeek126 karma

  1. Each creator gets to decide how they will / won't distribute their content. SciShow and CrashCourse are remaining free from all paywalls, though we are producing some supplemental content that will only be available to patrons.

  2. I was really glad that Patreon and Subbable got to be separate entities for the first couple years. That allowed us to each try different things and see what worked. But it also felt a little like each company was re-inventing what the other was doing. I think Patreon will continue to evolve and grow and find new ways to serve the needs of creators and audiences, which I'm thrilled to be a part of.

TheJOATs65 karma

though we are producing some supplemental content that will only be available to patrons.

Isn't that the definition of a paywall? While not a complete paywall, if you are making CrashCourse and Scishow videos that we have to pay to view, it still kind of counts. Or will you be doing the one day delay thing.

thesoundandthefury189 karma

We are not making Crash Course and SciShow videos that you have to pay to view. We'll be, like, taking pictures of the set and sharing jokes about editing scripts.

The mission of Crash Course at least is to create as much high value educational content as possible while keeping it free for everyone to use forever. -John

ecogeek143 karma

Also outtakes videos. Stuff that isn't "the show" but might be interesting to people who really like "the show."

phyphor84 karma

So, basically it's the DVD extras!

ecogeek128 karma

Without all that pesky plastic in your house!

sharkwithatoothache94 karma

Hi, Hank! I’m so excited that you’re doing this AMA! I only have one question:

How do you keep up your productivity?

Thank you so much!

DFTBA! (does the Nerdfighter sign in anticipation)

ecogeek114 karma

Here's my "How To Adult" video on this topic.

joycelee3687 karma

Hey Hank, One of the awesome things about Subbable was being able to build up a bank to save for a bigger perk. Will that go away permanently with the change to Patreon?

ecogeek96 karma

It will. This is definitely the biggest change. On Patreon, we (and you) simply have to make sure that whatever monthly reward you choose is worth the price being paid.

castmemberzack82 karma

Hello Hank!

You and John have been idols of mine for a long time (since like 2008. I was about 10 when I found you guys... that blows my mind). So anyway, do you think we’ll be able to 3D print you a new intestine within the near future? Would that even help you?

ecogeek84 karma

Intestines are pretty complicated. Not just the cells but the microflora that occupy them. The more we learn about this microbiome the more complicated it becomes. It's actually more important to sustain and rebuild this giant diversity of intestinal bacteria and fungi than the health of the intestine itself. Weird...

jackconte13 karma

I just had to give a +1 to the fact that intestines are complicated. In college I started farting, and I haven't stopped since. I have no idea what's going on down there. That shit is COMPLICATED.

ecogeek15 karma

I think the bigger concern is that you didn't start farting until college...

jeffnunn64 karma

Will subbable remain a sperate service or will it be absorbed by patreon?

ecogeek176 karma

ABSORBED, like a macrophage around a glob of glucose they will ingest and digest us. Maybe not quite like that though.

We're asking all subbable subscribers to convert their accounts ASAP. It's a really simple process and all current Subbable creators already have Patreon pages.

joelincoln58 karma

Hank, Love all that you do. I have great respect for how you 'walk the walk'.

Are you okay with dealing with the many corporate type duties you must now handle like money and personnel matters, travelling schedules and major media frenzies? Are you prepared to be a media mogol?

Or would you just like to go back to making neat videos and not worry about the politics of big business?

I'm concerned that you and your brother don't get burned-out.

Thanks for all you do, An older-than-usual fan

ecogeek104 karma

Yeah...sometimes it's awful and sometimes it's wonderful. I like saying "no" to people at big companies who want to give me money to do things that I don't believe in and them just being SO CONFUSED!

Business is a creative enterprise. It's making in the same way writing a song or a video is making. The tools are different, but the creativity is the same. The most fun part of it for me is figuring out how to do things differently from everyone else but still make it work. Challenging conventional wisdom is empowering and fun. Living in Montana helps a lot, but so does having such a wonderful supportive community.

DinosaurEggSalad45 karma

Do you think that the increasing use of browser extensions like adblock makes the current system of funding online content via advertising unsustainable?

Do you think people should refrain from using adblock or extensions which block online 'trackers'?

ecogeek56 karma

I'm not sure that adblock is as big a deal as it seems like. Most people don't know it exsits and folks have a remarkably high tolerance for advertising (much higher than my tolerance, for example.)

I don't really think the problem is with adblock (though I don't use it because it makes me feel guilty). I think the problem is with advertising...a business model that is almost intrinsically duplicitous.

DelphineNiehaus41 karma

I have a few questions but first I'd like to say thank you for being an advocate for STEM subjects. Some people can be awful when they find out you're interested in STEM so people like you are so important so thanks again!

My first question is what was the most unexpected thing that's happened during your career and where has it taken you to?

My second question is what one thing that you wish you could do differently?

And lastly, what is your next big project?

ecogeek72 karma

Oh, the most unexpected thing is that YouTube turned out to be a way to make money. Like, compared with every other system of online creation, YouTube is a much easier way to make money (though Patreon is helping that problem.) And it has taken me here, and also to the White House...just, so peculiar,

A thing I wish I could do differently? I don't know, I'm pretty happy with how things have shaped up. I missed a lot of opportunities to get super rich but, looking back, I wouldn't have enjoyed them.

Next big project? As mentioned in my most recent video, it is currently a secret and you will find out next week.

callmeprufrock40 karma

Does Patreon have any plans to go public, and if not, under what circumstances would the team consider that option? Has this been a part of your acquisition talks?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

ecogeek42 karma

I'll leave this one to Jack since it's his company but we did talk a little about the future of the company to make sure they weren't going to do anything that would be contrary to our values. The way he and his investors think about the future of the company is very sustainable and much more about cultural change than money, which is what was important to me.

tauntology37 karma

With the acquisition, will you (Hank) still be involved? Will you be a manager or something at Patreon?

ecogeek65 karma

I'm taking an unpaid advisor and advocate position at Patreon, which I'm really excited about. This kind of crowdfunding has a massive future and I'm very excited to see it grow and evolve.

bluth_banana-stand33 karma

is there anything that you wish you would have asked Obama, but cut it because of time constraints or self-censorship?

ecogeek108 karma

I actually got to all of the questions I had prepared. However, he released his prooposed budget the week after I was there and I really wish it had been before because I would've asked how on PLANET EARTH military spending is INCREASING as we end TWO WARS!

kmarrocco32 karma

Being nosy: Why is Crash Course not a non-profit entity in the U.S.?

ecogeek68 karma

Setting up non-profits is complicated and you are required by law to put control of the organization into the hands of a board of directors. There are also all kinds of financial reporting regulations which we'd be happy to do, but keeping track of it is a pain in the butt and we'd rather be making videos than doing accounting.

MrDNL26 karma

Hi! I'm a creator -- I have an email newsletter about neat trivia which 100,000+ people have subscribed to, and a lot of them are redditors. I'm currently using a competitor (Tugboat Yards) of Patreon for the crowdfunding aspect and am also looking into Recurrency. What I'm generally concerned about -- on all ends -- is that while I'm able to drive my own community to these platforms to some degree, is there a community of patrons above and beyond that? Like, do you guys expect to bring in any outside money (like NPR does) to try and get neat, indy projects funded?

(In other words: there are people out there who want to support indy projects, but aren't part of my or, say, CGP Grey's community. How do you hope to foster those relationships? Or, do you even hope to foster those relationships?)

That's a pretty poorly worded question, especially given that I claim to be a writer, so if you need a better idea of what I'm after, let me know.

ecogeek18 karma

Oh! I like your thing! It seems like it would be good YouTube videos (I think about everything in terms of whether it would make good YouTube videos).

At the moment, Patreon (nor any crowdfunding program, I don't think) has a system in place to match creators with granting agencies or large-scale donors. Patreon has a built in audience of people who are proven to be interested Patrons, but we haven't yet considered how to bring in outside money this way.

It's an intriguing idea though (especially since we have an existing relationship with PBS.)

Imxset2125 karma

What do you think is the greatest challenge Patreon faces as a company in the next 5 years? What are your future plans for the service?

jackconte49 karma

I mentioned this in a previous answer, but I think the deepest, most difficult challenge is building a culture of ultimate creator-first behavior. And the balance between maintaining profitability as a company AND always making creator first decision (not patreon first decisions) is a difficult mentality to breed within the organism that is a company.

The other things, that are most important right now are: 1) Make sure our core product improves by leaps and bounds 2) Make new products that allow creators to build an even stronger, more intimate patron base 3) Hire incredible people 4) Learn how to build product QUICKLY and iterate as an engineering organization

ecogeek36 karma

I'll add to this that I worry about the psychological difference between being required to pay and being asked to pay. If we /made/ people pay for Crash Course we would make MUCH MORE MONEY! But no one would call it immoral, that's just business. Like, pharmaceutical companies make people pay to not die, and that's just America.

But when you ASK people to pay, like they aren't required but you would like them to, suddenly the burden is on you to prove that you need the money. This is very odd, but it's something we all feel. Getting over the psychology that weights forcing a fan to do something rather than asking the ones who can afford to pay to pay is very important not just for Patreon, but for the future of independent creation.

tophatsnack24 karma

Hey Hank!

I was wondering about CrashCourse Kids, specifically what kind of team got together to write the script for the videos? It seems a bit confused in its target age and I was wondering if it's a work in progress or if all the videos will have the same feel? What age group is it specifically written for?

ecogeek31 karma

The great thing about YouTube is that it you can adjust so fast that everything is essentially a work in progress. This is one reason why big media companies are so bad at YouTube....they want to be able to film 40 episodes and then upload them over a year with absolutely not response to the audience or reaction to how certain stuff does.

So yeah, CCKids came out a little confused in it's age range, we are adjusting.

bobsacoolword21 karma

Hank, first of all, thank you bunches for your Biology crash courses. They're getting my through my first college science class.

Question time: If you could do absolutely anything (no limitations such as time or money), what would you choose to do?


ecogeek57 karma

Literally...I am doing it.

kmarrocco20 karma

I've already been billed for this month's payments to Smarter Every Day, C. G. P. Grey, Wheezy Waiter, Crash Course, Minute Physics, and The Good Stuff. If I click the big blue "Continue->" button, will I be charged again for this month, or should I wait until next month to click so it goes in that budget cycle for me?

ecogeek20 karma

You won't be charged until the first.

sikmeow6 karma

Hey Hank Quick thanks for all the greatness you've contributed to :) Didn't realise subbable came from you! Anywho Question: Whilst interviewing Mr Obama, did there ever come a point in which he'd said something you totally disagreed with, maybe even passionately, but held your tongue and didn't speak of it out loud? For understandable reasons ofc but was there any time like that? I remember one thing he said that threw me off. Anyway thanks again!

ecogeek9 karma

Not during my bit, but when he said to Bethany Mota that "being invisible" was a creepy superpower because you shouldn't want to spy on people I was like "AAHHHAHGHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!"