On the Subject of Revenue
I don't know what it is about today—January 29th, 2021—but I felt today would be a great day to talk about money. People talking about going to the moon gets you thinking of your higher aims.
There’s a little background I need to share before I jump head first into all of this.
First and foremost, I’m a Twitch partner. I celebrated my 6 year partner-versary two days ago. I got partnered while working at Twitch, and then went full-time after I quit being a designer there. So, seeing streaming as a source of livable income is an experience I share with many of you.
Back in Our Day
There was a time when streaming income was a bit more predictable. You could count the number of subs you had, multiply it by $2.50 and you had a rough estimation of what you’d be making that month.
Then, Twitch Prime (now Amazon Gaming) was released. People could “give you Jeff Bezos’ money” since they already had an Amazon Prime account. Cool right? Sure, and of course it came with a catch: you had to renew it manually every month. As an employee at the time, I understood why, but as a broadcaster I watched as upselling and unpredictability started getting comfortable.
Memes about Twitch Prime were rampant, because “DID YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE AMAZON PRIME YOU CAN-,” yeah, we’ve all heard it at one point or another. Part of a streamer’s job became reminding people that they need to press a button to pay them. With subscription tiers, subscription gifting, and the lovely Hype Train as the cherry on top, what once could’ve been seen as something predictable became its antithesis.
(Oh, it seems like I forgot about ad revenue. Huh, didn’t see it there.)
Fiscally responsible is not something I’d normally attribute to myself.
I like shiny things. I love tech. When I play gatchas I fear polymorphing into a whale. But when I started thinking of the pillars that would hold Altair up, providing the opportunity for streamers to have the option to be fiscally responsible was one of them. I already knew that I was going to be in this for the long run. I knew that I didn’t want to sell $1,000,000,000 in advertisements, because who does that actually help? What about that can give any of our peers peace of mind? I wanted a way to make sure my best friends could do what they loved without being used car salesmen. So this pillar formed as such:
As long as we’re able to sustain operations, we will give creators what they’ve earned and not a penny less.
We’re a low-profit Public Benefit Corporation. As one, our bylaws require us to serve the social good in one way or another, and be held to that standard consistently. We want to empower people to create in a mentally healthful manner. Being fiscally sound contributes to that mental health story.
So, with regards to those pies in the sky, here’s what we’re planning: all creators on Altair will receive a 60% cut of support at launch from what we’re calling “Tokens”. Each token will be equivalent to your normal $5 foot long, I mean, subscription. A community member can give you as many tokens as they wish on a one time or recurring basis. There are no tiers. If I want to give my friend 10 tokens a month and I can fiscally afford to do so, I will be able to, and they will receive 60% of that.
As an aside, we will provide mechanisms to creators to prevent community members from whaling if that creator feels that the given person is putting themselves in financial harm. This will be baked into our moderation system, if not at launch, at a point soon after.
As Altair is able to grow and hit our own goals for sustainability, we will increase everybody's cut from 60% to 70%. If we rise, all ships rise with us. In a perfect world, we’d be able to operate on what I’m about to address next, and creators would be able to get most, if not all, of their hard earned income.
The Flip Side of the Coin
One of the questions I’m asked most by skeptics is obvious, “how are you going to sustain all of this?”
- Advertising? No.
- Greedy venture capitalists? No.
- Angel investors that align with our mission? We have one of those actually and he’s an awesome person.
Our answer? Subscriptions.
I hear some groaning. Let me explain.
Business is not without risk. I knew from day one that every day that Altair exists as an idea and as a product is a day that we can move the needle of our industry forward. It’s getting hard to keep track of how many norms we’re trying to flip, but we could very well completely flop and fold on day 1. If that were to happen, then the market made their choice and we will have gone down fighting.
Here’s one of the questions that keeps me up at night:
Despite how much people hate intrusive advertising, is paying for a service more painful than sitting through the ad?
I wouldn’t blame you if you said yes. Depending on the service, I’d say yes.
So it’s more than just, ”hey, pay us $10 a month and stuff.” Yes, we do plan to be a subscription service in lieu of ads. This will be an option though. Altair will not be a walled garden.
One thing I learned from gifting, and to take an adage from our newly minted president, if enough of us are there to support, we can make this happen. I saw this through my own community’s use of subscription gifts. Every time one of them saw a person that was engaging, but couldn’t afford the emotes, they were gifted them. Not every community is like that of course, but enough are.
The Power of an Example
There is a through line in everything we do at Altair. Like our friends at Ghost, we plan to be financially transparent. You’ll know what we make, if we’re surviving, and how close we are to our own goals. We want to provide you and your community with a safe place where you can love what you do and one that’s protected by an actionable Code of Conduct. We want to communicate with you like the wonderful humans you are as we grow... like normal humans would and should. These are a few of the tenants that make our communities wonderful places to be for so many people out there. Why can’t the service you stream on exude those qualities too?
So. Would you pay $10/month for something like that? That’s the question that’ll decide everything. We will do everything in our power to stay lean, while being responsive, open, and transparent with our community, even if it’s not one of our best days.
There’s a reason we ask you to believe in Altair; because we hope that if enough people believe, we can make this dream into a home.