3Blue1Brownis creating videos animating math
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Sidenote: Did you know that for small payments online, the lower the amount, the higher the percentage that goes to processing fees? I'm endlessly grateful to anyone willing to contribute, at whatever level, but as you've come this far I'd be remiss not to mention there's more bang for your buck at higher tiers.
On top of early access, you get 50% off pricing on anything in the 3b1b store (plushie pi creature, shirts, math socks, etc.)
The thought is that Patrons are already supporting the channel in one way, so we're happy to take lower-to-negative margins on any channel souvenirs you'd fancy as a token of thanks.
3blue1brown is a YouTube channel aimed at explaining math visually. The funding structure for the channel is a sort of pay-what-you-choose model of monthly support from the audience. If these lessons add value to your life, enough so that you’d be comfortable as one of the contributing members, it would mean a lot to me (and to all the pi creatures).
Why this model?
In the early days of the channel, I experimented with different approaches to having it funded, like seeking larger institutions it could operate within, sponsorships (which I did for a while), etc. It’s actually quite lucky that Patreon was beginning to mature at this point. In my view, this model where people pay what they choose is the most conducive to lessons which people actually find meaningful.
When you think about it from the standpoint of incentive-alignment, it makes sense.
Ad-dependent content incentivizes hitting as many eyeballs as possible. Or more specifically, having the ad hit as many eyeballs as possible. Reach should matter, sure, but it shouldn't be the ultimate end. I suspect it’s hard for content creators to admit that when they incorporate ad reads into the videos (i.e. their own voice promoting a product), it has a pernicious way of influencing the content itself without you realizing it.
Income sources ancillary to content itself, like stores, public speaking, etc. have their benefits, but they all draw time and resources away from the actual content. Partnering with larger institutions almost always involves a tangle of attached strings. But with a pay-what-you-choose model, all arrows point towards the videos themselves and ensuring that people have a meaningful experience viewing them.
What do people get for contributing?
There are perks, like early access, animations sneak peeks, name in credits, and more. Also, because of these direct contributions, the channel no longer does sponsored content, so in some sense what people get in return are cleaner videos made without the distractions and mixed incentives of influencer marketing.
The feedback from many supporters, though, is that they contribute to say thanks for the lessons or to pay it forward for future learners.
Do you have an option for one-time donations?
Sure, there’s PayPal, some crypto addresses, and a store, if you’re into any of those. Thank you!
For what it’s worth, though, I don’t think the channel would be what it is now without the sustained-pledge model. It makes it much easier to plan for the future and to feel okay with this wacky career trajectory. Imagine if your own salary or business took the form of unpredictable tips. Also, this Patreon page is where I concentrate all supporter benefits. If the same contribution you have in mind is spread over a pledge for several months out in the future, it stands to be better for both of us. Well, except in that it means having to set a reminder to cancel the pledge when you intend to, but hopefully, the perks in the meantime would be enough to make that worth it.
Either way, I’m extremely grateful to anyone who chooses to pay for the content which is otherwise free, in whatever form you are most comfortable with.
How long does each project take?
I don’t have a consistent answer, but it’s typically several weeks. Researching/writing each lesson can take a while since I often go through many drafts and try to test it out on people when possible. And of course, the visuals take significant time.
The hope, though, is that a good visual lesson can save orders of magnitude more time for people trying to learn a topic. And beyond time savings, if the videos can spark a genuine passion for math in some people, what follows from that carries tremendous value.
Do the videos actually make a difference in people’s lives?
I’m glad you asked! Viewers frequently write to tell me that these videos turned them from ambivalence, discomfort, or even disdain for math to instead loving the subject. Sometimes it started with a topic they were struggling with which the videos helped to clarify; other times it was simply seeing a creative side of the subject not often highlighted in schools. To take just an excerpt from one such email:
With each of the many notes like this, I’m sure there’s a fuller story, perhaps an inspiring teacher or an enthusiastic peer, and these videos were just one of many factors pushing them over to the light side. Nevertheless, to think they could play even a minor role in people’s lives like this is a tremendous motivation to keep making them.
Who else should I support directly?
There are lots of great independent creators whose work I enjoy, like Matt Parker, Nicky Case, Ben Eater, Tim Blais, Primer, Wait but Why, to name just a few. Think about whose work you enjoy the most, and which has had the most positive influence on your life. Also think about larger organizations, like Khan Academy, where the freedom enabled by this more direct relationship likely makes for higher quality work. What the internet looks like is a direct product of the economics underpinning it, and we as consumers play into that.