If you’re into the webcomics scene, you may have heard that Penny Arcade is running a Kickstarter campaign to… um… remove banner ads from their site for a year?

Give you money so you don’t have to run ads? So I know Robert Khoo is a mad business genius and all, but that’s probably not the way you want to pitch this.

The patronage model isn’t new. Some of the most iconic classic works of art owe their existence to patrons. NPR and PBS run annual and biannual pledge drives to keep going. Hell, Penny Arcade survived through donations for years before Robert Khoo came into the picture. From a purely philosophical standpoint, Kickstarter is no different. It’s essentially a tool that lets crowds become patrons of the arts.

“Penny Arcade Sells Out” (the name of their project) is an experiment to see if people are willing to fund a year’s worth of comics. The money will also be used to pursue other creative projects like long form comics. That’s the way it should be pitched. It’s not about running a site ad free. It’s about a return to the days of old when patrons paid artists to art. If you frame it that way, it’s not so infuriating.

At least, I think that’s the intent.

A quick scan of the donation rewards make it seem like an ego thing. $300 for a twitter follow? $500 for a retweet? $1000 to get on an Xbox friend list?

In the end, it’s probably going to get funded. As of this writing, they’ve raised over $150,000 with 35 days to go. They just announced the campaign yesterday so good money is on them well exceeding the $250,000 initial project goal. Unfortunately, I don’t think this model works for the rest of us. I wouldn’t need to raise nearly that amount to sustain me and Audrey for a year, but it would be a largish number. I don’t have the audience numbers to pull in that kind of scratch so I think this model only works if you’re already a success. Still, it’d be interesting to see who tries to emulate Penny Arcade’s success. After all, there are countless PA webcomic clones out there with new ones popping up every minute. I suspect when this thing gets funded, we’ll see a glut of projects to fund webcomics for a year.

  • nerdycanuck

    I think the rewards are less about ego and more to simply offer people something, even if it’s superfluous. I don’t know how anyone can take the idea of Gabe shouting their name as he chases a duck very seriously. The rest of the rewards, all of which are written in what I took to be a fairly humorous slant, seem to be in that vain – rewards for the sake of rewards, and fairly goofy ones at that.

  • http://ypcomic.com Jamie Noguchi

    That’s a pretty good point, rewards for the sake of rewards. Although it would be fucking hysterical if they film Gabe running after ducks yelling names.

  • AdotJdot

    What I find hard to fathom is how Kickstarter is allowing this. A website with no ads is hardly a “project” under their FAQ. Although, since it is only to produce free content for a year, does that make it qualify? The backers aren’t even getting a book of the years’ comics after said year without ads. They are getting digital copies of old books. Books hardcore fans probably already have. (I’m not even a medium-core fan and I have one of those books)

    I don’t think anyone else could ask for money that pays rent and hosting bills just so they can make a comic for a year, not offer anything substantially different than what you are already doing, and get it approved by Kickstarter. Certainly not anyone at our level.

    I could produce tons of content and give it away if people were to give me $35k or maybe even $30k, since I’m only one guy, not a company like PA. If I were to submit today to create a project I doubt it would get approved and if it were approved, I’d be lucky to clear $300.

    Maybe Kickstarter knows the PA project will get funded and is just looking forward to its 5% cut.

    *here’s hoping for that duck video*

  • fefniir

    Hmm… I might pay money to see that