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Patreon Launches Lens, Its Take on Stories, to Let Creators Connect With Supporters

Membership service provider Patreon is the latest to jump on the Snapchat / Instagram stories bandwagon: Patreon added a new feature dubbed Lens to its Android and iOS apps Tuesday that allows creators to keep their patrons in the loop with photo and video updates.

Creators can annotate their photos and videos with captions, and everything expires 24 hours after posting — just like stories on Instagram or Snapchat. Except on Patreon, creators can decide to either make their Lens stories available to everyone, or keep them exclusive to paying members.

One goal of the update was to give creatives a quicker way of connecting with their supporters, said Patreon product manager Johnny Winston in an interview with Variety this week. “Creators are some of the busiest people out there,” he said. Giving them the ability to quickly snap and share a photo, or record a brief video update, would give them an alternative to long-winded update posts, or perfectly framed video diaries.

Patreon isn’t the first service to copy the stories format, which was originally invented by Snapchat and has since been added to Instagram, Messenger and even the main Facebook app. Winston readily admitted that Patreon took some cues from those services as well. “Our creators are highly visual people,” he said. “Stories are really good for that.”

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Patreon has been testing its Lens feature with a few dozen creators since last spring, and Winston said that the feedback was really positive — even from creators that don’t typically do visual storytelling. For instance, one creator who participated in the test was a novelist who used the feature to reach out to her audience, and ask them for feedback for possible plot lines.

Lens is only available via Patreon’s iOS and Android apps for the time being, which is already being used by the service’s majority of active users. Winston said that the company is considering bringing Lens updates to the web as well, but that the company won’t follow all of Snapchat’s and Instagram’s cues. Don’t hold your breath for goofy face filters, for instance. “Creators don’t usually need a bunch of masks,” he said.

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