Content scrapers — the inevitable conclusion
Last year, I had some advice for people who were concerned about a site that was taking Patreon creators’ exclusive content and posting it in a publicly searchable site. There was an update to the story that’s worth discussing.
In February 2020, I wrote a piece advising folks who were concerned that their Patreon exclusives were being posted publicly. It listed several suggestions, including:
- The “Voldemort Rule”
- Switching to Charge UpFront
- Filing a DMCA takedown notice, and the potential problems that may arise
I also wrote this:
These people have a baked-in problem with their scheme. They want to collect exclusive content and place it in a place to be accessed for free. The problem with that is that this creates very large server costs. In other words, sharing free content can get expensive. So, many of these sites turn to their users for donations. Let that sink in… they’re turning to people who are using their site to get paywalled content for free… and asking them to pay. So, inevitably, these sites tend to buckle under their own weight. After all… put yourself in this person’s shoes. They are footing the bill, month after month, so thousands of people can have free content. For a few months, you see yourself as a revolutionary. After a year or so, you look in the mirror and see a schmuck.“What to do if your exclusive Patreon content is stolen“, Webcomics.com, Feb. 17, 2020
Later that year, the person footing the bill for the server in question may have finally found that mirror. They closed the site down because it had become too expensive to maintain. And — surprise, surprise — the people who frequented the site weren’t interested in paying money to defray the costs.
It’s not worth debating why the person decided to stop paying the server costs. The important takeaway is this.
Someone can only steal what you did yesterday.
Your Patreon backers aren’t in it for the archive (although that is be an important component of the total rewards offered). Rather, they’re in it for the journey. To be part of the experience as it happens in real time.
There’s a reason that I devoted an entire chapter of “The Webcomics Handbook” to Community Building. It’s essential to what we, as webcartoonists, do.
We build a Community.
That’s why I don’t say “support me on Patreon.” That’s all about me.
I say “JOIN US ON PATREON.” That’s about us.
A scraper site can steal your content. But they can never steal your Community.