Patreon has launched a new feature that it announced last year: a Snapchat Stories-like feed where artists can share pictures and video with patrons. Lens is now available in the Patreon mobile app, after limited beta testing as a separate service. As with Stories, artists record photos and videos on their phone, then post them to a feed where they’ll disappear after 24 hours. If a patron has the app installed, they’ll get a notification for each update, so they can catch the post before it’s gone.
Lens provides something lots of artists already offer: a candid and exclusive look at their work. (Individual posts can be either shared publicly or limited to backers.) But it’s potentially simpler for people who aren’t already using services like YouTube and Discord, since it’s built into the Patreon ecosystem. “Giving behind-the-scenes and special access to themselves and their creative process is one of the most common forms of reward,” says Brent Horowitz, the company’s VP of business and corporate development. “Lens makes it easy to capture and share that creative process without a creator having to disrupt their flow and think about how they’re going to provide that access.”
The disappearing messages serve that purpose as well. The feature encourages quick, rough snapshots instead of carefully composed productions — which ideally makes running a Patreon feel less like an extra job for artists.
One remaining point of friction is the Patreon iOS and Android app, which is optional for users and a lot more niche than a service like YouTube. You can’t view the Lens feed in a browser; the team suggests that artists post an update directing patrons to the app.
But Horowitz emphasizes that Patreon isn’t trying to compete with other media platforms. “This doesn’t mean we’re ‘entering the market’” of photo and video sharing, he says. That’s good news for artists who are leery of depending too much on the platform, especially after a payment processing change shook users’ trust last year. For now, Lens is an extra feature that makes Patreon’s app more useful — and might nudge more creators to interact with their fan base.