I was chatting with Professor Mole, an online acquaintance who used to run a webcomic review site. He was all, "Yo, bro, what do you think about Patreon, bro?" And I was all, "Bro! I never even heard about it, bro!" And he was all, "BRO!" And I was all, "BRO!"
But yes, making money from freely webcomics has always been a curious challenge. Most readers seem like they would like to help support their favorite artists, but hiding content behind paywalls kills free publicity and is difficult to enforce. What's left for webcomics? There's online sales, ads, Kickstarters, etc. Right now there is no perfect system, and the most successfully monetized ones (Penny Arcade, The Oatmeal) make money in ways that seem impossible for most everyone else. Patreon, at least, seem to make sense for regularly updating webcomics. Basically, readers sign up for an amount (say $1), and every time content updates, the amount is sent to the artist. In return, the reader gets access to some special content.
Already, webcomics like Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and Widdershins have signed up with Patreon. In my opinion, the rewards aren't that great. I mean, I'm not sure I'd ever be in the market for a webcast livedraw or a custom photo album. But that's not why you kick in the money, anyway. Also, it's effective thus far. SMBC has thus fair raised more than $8,000 a month. That's an excellent salary in any field. Lesser known webcomics are taking in substantially less... but, hey, at least the option is available.
(Editor's note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” -- from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done. We're trying something a little different this week by breaking our entries up into separate posts, so let us know what you think in the comments).