I’ll start this post with an off-topic introduction.
Zach Braff has a huge fan-following, served an incredibly well-made Kickstarter video and is now reaping the Kickstarter rewards.
Zach Braff, however, is also a multi-millionaire. Moreover, he already had a “traditional” financing deal for his movie from a studio, which he turned down in favour of doing a Kickstarter-campaign.
The reactions, most prominently on Mashable yesterday, are raising many questions that sound eerily familiar to anyone following the ongoing miniatures and board gaming Kickstarter-boom (and partly, this post is inspired by this very discussion over at Quirkworthy.com).
- Is it ethical for “big”, well-financed people or companies to ask for money on Kickstarter?
- Should access to “traditional” financing preclude (at least morally) a Kickstarter-drive?
- Are the “big players” on Kickstarter hurting the smaller campaigns?
- Are the “big players” on Kickstarter actually helping the smaller campaigns?
There are two main takes on this.
#1 – Ripple Effects: The Kickstarter.com Version…
Kickstarter’s official stance is that big , “blockbuster” Kickstarter-campaigns indirectly benefit the small, less professional campaigns on Kickstarter. Kickstarter argues that “money spend on Kickstarter” is not a finite pool. Big and small Kickstarters do not compete in a zero-sum game.
And when there’s a blockbuster project, they ask: Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?
For both questions, the opposite actually appears to be true. Projects aren’t fighting over a finite pool of Kickstarter dollars or backers. One project’s backer isn’t another project’s loss. The backers that one project brings often end up backing other projects as well. Each project is not only promoting itself, but the Kickstarter ecosystem as a whole.
In a nutshell, big “blockbuster projects” raise the profile of Kickstarter as a whole. The more successful Kickstarter.com becomes, the more money is being spend on that site.
More money spend in total also means that more money will eventually trickle down to the small projects asking for crowd-funding support in the shadow of the Kickstarter-Leviathans.
#2 – Deflection: The Mashable.com Version…
Critics, among them Mashable.com and the Guardian, tend to disagree. To them, the issues isn’t the (straw?) argument of “Kickstarter is not a zero-sum-game“, but the more intangible perception by people of what “Kickstarter is” and what a worthy Kickstarter-campaign should look like.
Mashable calls it “Deflection”, noting that it used to be a concern of Kickstarter.com too…
“The thing is, if Michael Bay came along and wanted to do a Kickstarter we’d probably tell him, please don’t,” [Kickstarter co-founder Yancey] Strickler said at the time.
“I would never want to scare the girl who wants to do a $500 lithography project, ’cause that’s why we started this thing. We think we have a moral obligation to her.”
According to this argument, Kickstarter-backers/customers/visitors will be more and more reluctant to give cash to the smaller project as people become accustomed to the professional, highly polished campaigns boasting videos, graphics and social media marketing budgets that already exceed the total amounts small campaigns want to raise in the first place.
I grappled with the question of what makes the “big” Kickstarters successful in my old post on “Kickstarter is Entertaiment“. I still believe this argument is valid. To succeed, a Kickstarter-campaign needs to be entertaining for its backers, keeping them engaged and actively communication about the project in their own personal social (media) networks.
That said, good Kickstarter Entertainment – a constant stream of updates, sketches, sculpts, news, videos, etc – is a difficult thing to do for the proverbial one-guy/girl-in-the-basement.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe, that Kickstarter-backers accustomed, habituated to the 360°, all-out entertainment-assault of a big, professionally run Kickstarter drive will feel let down by smaller campaigns that cannot possibly deliver a constant stream of fun and gratifications.
#3 – Your Thoughts?
Whose side would you be on in this argument?
I admit, the second, “deflection” argument feels more intuitively right to me. However, I have no evidence to back this up. Both economics and human psychology can be highly counter-intuitive.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so leave a comment!