Why This Space Creator Pivoted to Memberships 🛰️

Astrum kicks off a Patreon drive with a face reveal

Good morning. The great re-bundling is happening. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have reportedly agreed to offer Max, HBO, and Disney+ as one subscription package starting this summer, per Bloomberg. The price hasn’t been disclosed, but if it's anything like the ESPN/Disney deal—there may be some savings.

Astrum Pivots to Memberships After a Decade on YouTube

Alex McColgan of Astrum launches a Patreon through a face reveal one month ago / Astrum

Alex McColgan launched his faceless YouTube channel, Astrum, in 2013 with a mission to make space “easier to access” through educational video essays and documentaries about the solar system.

Last month, he decided to show his face in a video (something he rarely does on the channel) to kick off a Patreon membership drive.

Why? “I wanted to say that I’m a real person—not an AI voice,” McColgan told us. “And I’ve been editing this channel for 10 years.”

Context: McColgan was early to the space niche.

  • As interest in space increased, Astrum grew to nearly 2 million YouTube subscribers.

  • But over time, McColgan began to notice more competition for clicks.

“When I started, I could make a video and basically give it a very straightforward title and a [simple thumbnail]…now, there’s so many low-quality, cash cow channels coming into this genre,” he told us.

So, McColgan tapped his community. The pitch? Support the channel with a $5/month membership, which allows Astrum to a) build out its team b) increase monthly output from five to eight videos and c) ensure budgets aren’t as tight “if for whatever reason, we don’t get the algorithm right that month,” McColgan said.

The response: Astrum more than doubled its paying subscribers across Patreon and YouTube, exceeding its 1,000-member goal within a couple weeks.

Zoom out: Asking audiences to pay for content has been a hot topic lately (see: the Watcher situation). McColgan thinks his pitch worked because he encouraged viewers to pay only if they could afford to—and he still plans to make his videos accessible for free.

“If you managed to read any of the comments, they were really, really nice,” he told us. “Some people wrote how [the channel’s] changed their life, which I wasn’t expecting at all.”

Gymnasium and Substack Partner for Creator Fellowship

Adam Faze’s (left) production studio Gymnasium will advise creators from Substack’s Creator Fellowship (right) / Photography by Phoebe HonoSubstack

Short-form video studio Gymnasium is partnering with newsletter platform Substack for the launch of Substack Creator Studio, a video fellowship program for creators.

The details: Gymnasium will consult 10 creators on their short-form video strategy, while Substack will provide tech support and some marketing. Creators can apply via Google form, and Gymnasium and Substack will pick the finalists.

“It sounded so cool to us because 1) it’s an opportunity to work with newer creators we might be fans of but haven’t worked with and 2) we’re in this stage where there’s a big question mark of what’s going to happen to [TikTok],” Gymnasium founder Adam Faze told us.

Faze said that newsletters provide a way for creators to go deeper with and create more action among their audiences.

  • Gymnasium is looking to make newsletters based on some of its shows like “Boy Room.”

  • “We’ve always gotten way more inbound from newsletters we’ve been mentioned in than any sort of traditional press that we’ve ever gotten,” Faze said, referring to the business inquiries they received following mentions in outlets like Rachel Karten’s Link in Bio newsletter and The New York Times

The strategy allows Substack to appeal to a wider range of creators, targeting short-form creators who have yet to find meaningful monetization through TikTok, Shorts, and Reels. 

Zoom out: Following a creator exodus from Substack in January over its treatment of hate content on the platform, Substack has worked to make inroads with creators. Last month, the platform introduced a Spotify integration so audio creators could share their episodes via Spotify, and earlier this month Substack started letting writing creators paywall their chat discussions.

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Dropout Breaks Into Live Comedy

Dropout’s live comedy series includes specials “Pissing Out Cancer” by Hank Green (left) and “Unmedicated” by Adam Conover (right) / Dropout

Comedy streaming service and YouTube channel Dropout announced a new series called Dropout Presents, which will show live comedy specials from creators like Hank Green and Courtney Pauroso. 

Context: Dropout, formerly known as CollegeHumor, has produced scripted and reality shows like Game Changer and Dimension 20 for the last six years. 

Dropout Presents is its first foray into live comedy. Other competitors in the space include Netflix and Prime Video.

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The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: Cannabis researchers questioned a recent episode of the popular podcast Huberman Lab, claiming its host, Andrew Huberman, misled his audience on the effects of the drug. Rolling Stone talked with three experts to learn more.

  • Watch: “Do we love our children?” Marketing professor and author Scott Galloway examines the financial state of young Americans’ future in a viral TEDTalk.

  • Listen: Ahead of Mother’s Day, listeners share the tracks that remind them of their moms on All Songs Considered.

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