In a nutshell
Getting people to subscribe is a key income source for many Twitch streamers. In fact, many streamers rely on their monthly subscribers to keep streaming as a career. However, with so much pressure on Twitch streamers to get their viewers to sub, when is it — if ever — unethical to ask your viewers to subscribe? Is every opportunity fair game, or should streamers set some boundaries for themselves?
Let’s delve into these questions to see if it’s okay for you to solicit your audience for subscriptions and how to navigate it.
Understanding Twitch subs
There are various ways for creators to make money on Twitch. However, subscription and ad revenue are the primary ways that partnered streamers make money. When a viewer subscribes to a channel, they make a monthly payment, starting at $5 for a tier one sub, to support the content creator. In exchange, subscribers receive a range of perks, including custom emotes, ad-free viewing and more. There are multiple subscription tiers, allowing for greater support priced at $10 (tier two sub) and $25 (tier three sub) a month. Additionally, viewers can gift subscriptions to others, and those with Amazon Prime can use their complimentary monthly sub through Prime Gaming.
While there are many other ways streamers can earn revenue, like bits or running ads, many creators’ livelihoods rely on their viewers subscribing to them.
Ethical considerations when asking for subs on Twitch
When it comes to asking your viewers for subs, it’s a bit of a gray area. Although many streamers’ livelihoods rely on their viewers to sub, most streamers don’t want to take advantage of their community’s kindness. For example, popular Twitch streamer Pokimane decided not to ask for subscriptions or donations while broadcasting. Why? Because she admits to making enough money off sponsorships and would rather give her audience as much free content as possible. Now, considering Pokimane is one of the most successful streamers on Twitch, she’s able to take the hit to her income by not asking for subscriptions. However, most smaller streamers couldn’t completely abstain from subscriptions and still keep their channels afloat.
So, the question comes down to this: Is asking for subscriptions exploitation? And, as with most things, the answer isn’t simple. It all depends on how you ask. Most streamers take this approach: Gently reminding viewers they can subscribe if they want to while also acknowledging people’s financial hardships and making it clear no one has to support them. Ultimately, this is the best approach for streamers to balance monetization and their viewers’ respect.
A balancing act: How to balance revenue and viewer respect
Navigating the careful balance of keeping your viewers’ respect and ensuring your finances are in check can be really tricky. Let’s discuss a few ways you can implement a healthy, ethical subscription solicitation.
First and foremost, be transparent
If you need subscriptions to keep your stream alive, let your audience know. Viewers will understand the difference between you asking for support so you can keep creating content for them and you just wanting extra cash. Also, if you’re uncomfortable asking for subs, you can say that too. Your viewers will appreciate your honesty; it will also help them understand why you’re asking for subscriptions. It all comes down to context and intent.
Do semi-regular, non-intrusive reminders
Whenever you encourage your viewers to subscribe, it’s critical that it’s not intrusive to the stream and its content. Some streamers make the mistake of stopping everything to ask their audience for subscriptions. The sudden pause feels like a paywall to viewers — as if the only way to get back to the content is to pay for a subscription.
A quick aside during gameplay, reminding your audience subscriptions are appreciated, is a more natural way to ask. Some streamers are even able to turn the act of asking for subscriptions into content. YouTube streamer Ludwig (who used to be a Twitch streamer) is a master at making subs reminders into comedic bits.
Don’t require your viewers to subscribe
Some viewers have the means to support the stream and will. Some viewers don’t have the means to support and won’t. And some viewers don’t have the means to support, but will anyway. If you want to ethically approach subscriptions, you want to minimize the last group as much as possible. While you can’t control everyone’s actions, you can control your language around asking for subs. If you rely on subs, you want to make that clear, but you also don’t want to make it feel dire. Otherwise, viewers who like your content might panic and support you to ensure you can keep creating content, regardless of whether it hurts their pocketbooks. Viewers shouldn’t feel they’re required to subscribe, especially if they can’t afford it. In the long run, this approach might even earn you more subs, as you’ll earn the respect of viewers who can afford to support.
Farm Twitch Primes
For many streamers, the best — and most ethical — way to ask for subscriptions is to ask viewers to use their Twitch Primes on you. This is the go-to way to ask for subscriptions because it’s free for many Twitch viewers. How? If a viewer has Amazon Prime, they can subscribe with a tier one sub to one streamer for free each month. Interestingly, most Amazon Prime users don’t even know they have a free tier one sub they can use. So, if you want to boost your subscription revenue at no extra cost to your viewers, ask them to use their Twitch Primes if they have them.
Go ahead — ask
Asking your viewers to subscribe can be nerve-racking. Obviously, you don’t want to come off as exploitative. But asking for support doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. If you’re honest with your community and don’t force them to support you, then you will find a balance between respecting your viewers and earning enough to keep streaming. So, go ahead — it’s okay to ask for support. Just remember that there’s a human behind every Twitch handle, all with their own financial responsibilities. If they can support you, that’s great. If they can’t, that’s fine too.