Tuesday 16th September 2014,
Televisual

Kickstarter and Crowdfunding: Are Web Series Successful Raising Money?

Aymar Jean Christian October 9, 2010 uncategorized 17 Comments

UPDATE: For an updated look at Kickstarter and film, see this post at NewTeeVee.

For the past three months, I’ve been tracking the success of web series projects on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter. I published a preliminary write-up with Tubefilter a few weeks ago, but that piece had a small but significant number of projects still “in progress.”

Kickstarter gives users up to 90 days to raise money. If you don’t reach your funding goal, you don’t get the money. I was waiting for my “as yet unfunded” projects to conclude, and now they are!

What is Kickstarter’s success rate? Final numbers after the jump.

100: Total number of web series pitches I counted

$252,650: Total amount of money donated to web series

$2,526: Average amount of money donated to an individual project (successful or not)

38%: Success rate, percentage of projects who reached their goal

62%: Failure rate

52%: Average percentage of goal reached (100% is success)

126%: Average percentage of goal reached after project was successfully funded

9.3%: Average percentage of goal reached if project was unsuccessful

First, the necessary disclaimer. These numbers are just based on my own calculations from 100 randomly selected web series projects on Kickstarter from over the past few months; they are not official!

A couple of things I find interesting:

* $250,000 is a lot of money! To be sure, that number is distributed among 100 projects. But the vast majority, about $200,000, went into the pockets of producers.

* Success still eludes most people who try to raise money through crowdfunding. Over 3 out of every 5 fundraising efforts fail. While that’s not the worst rate in the world (certainly better than going at it alone), don’t expect to raise money automatically. It takes work, luck and a good idea.

* While, on average, a web series project on Kickstarter raised about half of its goal, that number is skewed by a small percentage of enormously successful campaigns (two projects — including We Are with the Band – raised more than double what they asked for). If your project doesn’t reach its goal, you can expect to raise only about 10% of what you asked for. What does this mean? There’s a wide gulf between producers who are really good at getting money and those who really don’t raise any money at all. The “mode” of my sample was clear: zero, as in a large number of people raised nothing.

* People who can raise money – with good ideas, strong campaigns – can really raise it! Once the goal is reached, producers raised, on average, over 25% more than they asked for! So while making it through crowdfunding might weed out a lot of duds, the benefits of making it can be quite substantial.

* The projects that successfully raised funds were quite diverse, including serious docu-series, animated series, first-time producers, professional producers, makeover shows and scripted shows from comedies, mysteries, gay- and women-centered programs. What I really didn’t see were black or much ethnic programming. But that might have just been my sample.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

17 Comments

  1. Rich Mbariket October 11, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Good research Aymar. First, running a crowd funding campaign requires strong marketing know-how, aggressive push via email, Facebook, Twitter and offline tactics. Second, the problem is most web series creators don’t have a loyal following on social media/email list for a CF campaign to make sense.

    $2,500 avg donation per individual project isn’t worth it if you were to divide that sum by the number of man-hours put into running the CF campaign?

    To me CF is glorified begging, and nothing is more maddening than begging fans for money in this economy. A content creator should get a second or third job to finance his/her web series. Begging for money is unsustainable.

  2. Aymar Jean Christian October 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks, Rich. I think you’re probably right about the tone crowdfunding sets. For me I see it as a strategy for people without many or any industry connections, money saved up, or time to work extra jobs — newcomers, essentially. If you’re starting from zero, might not be a bad option.

  3. Bernie Su October 11, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Aymar,

    Great job on the research for this piece. I think another point to realize that in just the past few months there have been at least 100 (that you saw, and obviously many many more) web series projects out there looking for a big enough piece of the small figurative pie.

    Simply put, there are A LOT of web series out there.

  4. Aymar Jean Christian October 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks, Bernie! Always welcome your thoughts. There really are a lot of series out there, most of which of course never get seen. It’s very daunting to think about.

  5. Rob Gokee October 12, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Great article, those numbers are about what I’d expect, although the total dollars raised surprised me (in a good way). I totally disagree with crowd-funding being “begging”; if the fans don’t want to contribute, they won’t. Quality series are seeing passionate fans who are willing to donate to see future seasons of the show (I know multiple people who have donated $1000+ to webseries, and I’m not talking about relatives of the creators). It’s exciting to see that the shows we create are being watched passionately.

    Also, if I counted every hour of work I put into promoting and scoring a webseries and monetized it, I’d be in the negative. It’s not about how much money you make at the webseries level; it’s about the doors it opens for you that lead to future (and profitable) work.

  6. Allison Vanore October 12, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Wow, with a number like $250,000 I’m encouraged! I’ve seen many projects successfully fulfill their goal on sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. While it’s not ideal to look to fans and colleagues for donations, I feel that the success of a campaign shows that there are people out there looking for new engaging content and who want to support those who desire to produce it. Indie Television is gaining momentum and our grassroots effort to produce quality programming and bring it to the masses has begun. Additionally, Crowd Funding is proof that a great story, coupled with great marketing and PR is going to be successful. We’re all just starting the promotional aspect of our show prior to producing them – which ideally is the way you should do it anyway.

    Great article, Aymar!

  7. Vivian Kerr October 16, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Thanks for mentioning our show!

    “We Are with the Band” did have success with Kickstarter, because (1) we were truly passionate about our show and (2) we didn’t get greedy.

    I think most Kickstarter campaigns fail because they ask for what they actually “need” versus what they think they can get. We purposefully asked for only the basic amount required for a meager, bare-bones budget – just simple equipment rental. We weren’t sure if we could actually make our series with so little money, but we were determined to try.

    The best thing about Kickstarter for us was that it got the ball rolling on our project. People contributed more BECAUSE we were only asking for so little. And even after our campaign ended, we still received donations through Paypal, enabling us to eventually make the show for a much higher budget than we’d anticipated.

    Crowd-sourcing may not be the solution to all of our money woes, but it’s still a great way to launch a campaign.

    Thanks again, Aymar, for another great article!

  8. frederick November 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Hello,

    Appreciate your article but you lost me (and do to the fact that I’m a professional writer, I must assume everybody else) when you stated:

    Average percentage of goal reached (what does this mean? Does it mean the project was completed?) Very nebulous and incoherent – not meaning to be critical, but want to know what you’re really trying to say here.

    also Average percentage of goal reached after project was funded (once again, what goal – the completion of project? How does this differ from above percentage.

    Then last one doesn’t make sense for same reasons. I might not check back so please email me with your amended explanaations.

    thank you,

    frederick

  9. Aymar Jean Christian November 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    On Kickstarter, each project manager sets a funding goal. If you reach 100% of your goal, your project gets the funding.

    Let’s say you want to raise $1,000. Some projects only reached, say, 12% of their goal, or in this case $120. “Average percentage of goal reached” is the average amount of their goal the 100 projects I looked at reached. On average, projects raised half or about 50% of what they asked for.

    But, once you achieved your goal — reached 100% of what you asked for — on average, those projects raised an extra 26%, or 126% total.

    Most projects, however, did not reach their funding goal — their projects were unsuccessful. Among those who did not raise their funding goal, projects raised an average of 9%, or less than a tenth, of what they asked for.

  10. thomas December 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    My wife is trying to raise money for a charity she wants to start up. So I was researching kickstarter as well. What I noticed was that creative videos generate good donations. The requestors need to be geniune and have a passion for their project. It has to be something that will be positive for the community.

    I also feel that the requesters have to put in work. I could imagine promoting the site via email and social media is crucial to getting it funded. If not then the project gets buried with the others

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