Flattr: One Step Closer to Sustainable Blogging

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 in Business, Highlight | 9 comments

Money’s been at the front of my brain lately. I need to make more, and stat. I’m in one of those dry spells that always come ’round at some point or another in creative business. I’m not panicking; I know well enough that eventually it rains. Still. I’ve called all my feelers back from their holiday and sent them all out. I’ve got both eyes peeled. An ear to the ground. But I know better than to sit around letting my cliches do all the work.

Flattr logo imageA few weeks ago I added a button to the bottom my blog posts. Did you notice? If you did, I bet you didn’t know what it’s for. Go peek down there.

Flattr is a social micro-payment system. It’s like Facebook’s “like” button, but with cash. It’s simple, clever, and I think it has tremendous potential to help make blogging a sustainable endeavour.

Here’s how it works, a little more specifically:

  1. You create an account on Flattr. To do so, you enter the basic info and you also open an account. There’s no using Flattr without also using money. The project was started by Swedes, so the currency they use is the Euro. In this day and age, I don’t much care what currency I use. Perhaps in the future they’ll add support for other currencies so those of us not in Europe won’t have to get dinged by exchange rates and fees. Do note that the Euro is worth more than the U.S. and Canadian dollar right now, so the minimum deposit may be slightly more than you think.
    1. Everybody must make a deposit – there are no moochers in Flattr. In order to have your work Flattred, and therefore to make money, you also have to give Flattrs. Nice.
  2. The deposit you make sits in your Flattr funds account, which you manage through a dashboard. You choose an amount to automatically add to your funds each month (the minimum is €2 per month, which isn’t very much at all).
  3. Each time you Flattr someone’s work by clicking the button on their site, you’re committing to pay them some of your funds at the end of the month.
  4. At the end of the month, the money in your funds account is distributed evenly to all the people whose work you Flattred. So, say you have €2 of funds. If you Flattr two things in a month, each of those accounts will receive €1 from you.
  5. At the end of the month, you receive money into your revenue account from the people who Flattred your work. You can withdraw that revenue whenever you like.

I’m in love with this idea, but there are a couple of caveats.

Flattr is only as useful as the size of the population that uses it is big. For a month, I was the only person in my community who used it. I received no Flattrs that month. This month, though, some more people in my community are beginning to use it. I’ve got four Flattrs right now. That’s not very much, but it’s more cents and maybe even dollars than I was making by blogging last month. Until it really catches on, we early users of Flattr are essentially investing in the project with no promise of return. The good part about that, though, is that it’s a very small investment and I’m confident I’ll make my few Euros back. If I don’t, it’s not enough money to significantly affect my bank account.

As we all know, blogging is work – it’s just not work that directly pays us very much. Even if you run ads on your site, you’re probably not making much money from them. Flattr allows people to support your work whenever they’re compelled to. One of my four Flattrs is on my general Books page. I take that as one person deciding to support me because they enjoy my books (hell, the way royalties work, I could potentially make more from some of my books simply from people Flattring that page). One Flattr is on my recent post about homophobia. I know a lot of people were moved by that post, and I was moved by their responses. Two are on my post about going to Portland for the Summit of Awesome. Maybe those two people were just excited and wanted to pay a little bit for my drive down there.

When I read posts and articles that move me or inspire me or make me think, I would absolutely, without hesitation allot that writer some of my Flattr funds. The sweet part about Flattr is that that’s all it takes – you feel compelled to pay someone, you click a button. CAKE. And it’s just as easy to implement on your site. There are WordPress plugins, and they provide a list of links to instructions for how to use Flattr on Blogger, Tumblr, and more.

Flattr’s currently in closed Beta. I didn’t wait painfully long for my invite, and they’re now occasionally giving members invites to distribute. So if you’re interested in using it, I encourage you to go over there and sign up for a beta invite, and pay attention to current users to see if they get any invites to give away.

Here’s a list of bloggers in my community who are using Flattr. If you’re using it, let me know and I’ll add you to the list:

  • http://www.thehookandi.com plainsight

    I've always felt weird about the “tip jar” method of collecting money for blogging. I figure, if you're going to charge for something, charge for it, and if not, make it free. But Flattr sounds cool in its sort of socialist way of distributing funds to posts you like. It's great that you have to make a deposit to be able to collect funds, and it will create a community of people supporting each other, I'm sure. I'm curious to see how it evolves, and I would love to try it out even if it doesn't end up going anywhere.

  • http://kirstyhall.co.uk/blog/ Kirsty Hall

    OK, Kim, as promised, I've set mine up too: https://flattr.com/thing/13066/Kirsty-Hall

    Although I haven't figured out how to get a button on my blog yet – back to their FAQ for me!

    Even if this system doesn't end up working, I think it's worth experimenting with. The thing we have to remember is that the internet is still quite young and we're still very much in the 'hey, what works' stage. We're living through a revolution and in any revolution there are always lots of different techniques and forms that need to be tried out. When publishing started, books weren't in exactly the same form they are now – it took them a while to work out what was legible, what size worked best and how the economics of publishing was going to work.

  • http://jellidonut.blogspot.com Susan

    Thanks for all the info on Flattr. I had no idea how it worked–I like the “communal” feel it has going for it. Wondering if you've gotten any negative feedback from anyone. I like the concept and I'm going to check it out.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    That's how I feel about it, Amy. Also, even the relatively straightforward
    PayPal tip jar is a pain to use as a consumer. It's far easier just to click
    a button and be done with it. Flattr uses even fewer steps than it takes to
    retweet a post.

    If Flattr catches on, it could be revolutionary.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    Indeed. One of the reasons I'm excited about the potential of Flattr is that
    it's the first thing I've seen like it – it's the first chance to try
    something new and see if it works. (And I *like* the idea, so I want it to
    work.)

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    I haven't heard anything negative about it yet, but it's still very, very
    new.

    I'm already thinking of ways I might want to improve upon it, but I don't
    think there's anything wrong with the way it works now. For example, I'd
    love to have an option to spend my entire funds account on one piece of
    content (one that blows my mind), and then have my account automatically
    replenish so it can be divided amongst all the other content I like in a
    month. Still, I don't think this is a critical feature.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    That's how I feel about it, Amy. Also, even the relatively straightforward
    PayPal tip jar is a pain to use as a consumer. It's far easier just to click
    a button and be done with it. Flattr uses even fewer steps than it takes to
    retweet a post.

    If Flattr catches on, it could be revolutionary.

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    Indeed. One of the reasons I'm excited about the potential of Flattr is that
    it's the first thing I've seen like it – it's the first chance to try
    something new and see if it works. (And I *like* the idea, so I want it to
    work.)

  • http://www.kimwerker.com Kim Werker

    I haven't heard anything negative about it yet, but it's still very, very
    new.

    I'm already thinking of ways I might want to improve upon it, but I don't
    think there's anything wrong with the way it works now. For example, I'd
    love to have an option to spend my entire funds account on one piece of
    content (one that blows my mind), and then have my account automatically
    replenish so it can be divided amongst all the other content I like in a
    month. Still, I don't think this is a critical feature.

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