Can A Publisher Use Crowdfunding To Replace Ads?

We’ve already seen Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding platform, used to finance some fairly interesting media experiments, including books from authors like Seth Godin, record albums by artists like Amanda Palmer and even an entire magazine in the case of Matter. But could a publisher use the service to crowdfund their way out of the advertising-revenue trap that many media companies find themselves trapped in? Penny Arcade, which publishes online comics and puts on related events, is trying to do exactly that with an ambitious Kickstarter campaign aimed at replacing the revenue it currently gets from advertising with funding from fans. But will it work? And could it provide a model for other media companies?

Penny Arcade is anything but a traditional publisher: it began as a simple video-game-oriented webcomic that writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik posted semi-regularly online in the late 1990s, and has become a regular series with a number of associated real-world products (including several video games) and its own gaming conference called PAX. It is one of the longest-running webcomics around, and Holkins and Krahulik have made their living by publishing it for the past several years — in part by running advertising on the site where the comics appear.

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