from the give-it-a-go dept
We’ve written about Flattr a bunch of times over the past few years, as we find it to be a really interesting experiment in both micropayments and in supporting content creators. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept (which was created, in part, by Peter Sunde from The Pirate Bay), each user of Flattr puts some amount of money (total is up to the user) into its account each month, and they can then click on “Flattr” links around the internet. At the end of each month, Flattr tallies up the total amount of content you’ve “flattr’d” and divides your monthly allotment by that amount. Thus, if you want to give creators $10/month, and then flattr 10 pieces of content, each creator will get $1 (actually, $0.90 after Flattr’s 10% cut). If you flattr 20 pieces of content, each one gets $0.50 (er… $0.45). The thing we liked about this is that it gets you past a big part of the mental transaction costs of micropayments: that is, if you have to think about “is this piece of content worth $0.50 or $0.10?” you’re already going to lose a bunch of potential customers who don’t even want to bother with thinking about it. But, with Flattr, they don’t have to think about it for each piece of content. Once they’re convinced to take part and fund their account each month, it makes no difference to them how many piece of content they flattr.
As some of you know, we’ve had a Flattr widget on every one of our posts for the past couple of years. It brings in a small amount of money each month — maybe between $50 and $100 or so. Of course, part of the issue is that there are some usage hurdles. The service has a small but dedicated user base, but it seemed to stagnate over the years. On top of that, there was a bit of a chicken and egg problem, in that the process of finding content that is Flattr-enabled is still somewhat haphazard — and then Flattr users need to remember to flattr that content. However, that’s now getting much easier as Flattr has announced integration with a number of different services, including (most importantly) Twitter, Instagram and Soundcloud (also: Vimeo, Flickr, github, 500px and app.net). So, now, if you connect your accounts, you can give money simply by favoriting tweets.
And, yes, that means if you want to toss a bit of change our way, you can now do so with a Flattr account by favoriting the tweets on our official Twitter account or my personal Twitter feed as well — both of which are connected to the Techdirt Flattr account.
Of course, the other hope in all of this is that it will help lead to more people using Flattr in the first place. That’s because Flattr users who favorite a tweet of someone who is not using Flattr are still designating those flattrs for that account. That doesn’t mean that Flattr is holding money for those accounts (since that could add up!), but simply accumulating flattrs. Thus, if I “favorite” a Twitter account that doesn’t use Flattr once a month, and that person finally signs up for Flattr a year later, it would count all 12 of my favorites as if they came that month (thus giving users on other services incentives to sign up sooner rather than later). Flattr is working on automatically notifying people who can “claim” money, but initially they’re hoping the community will do that job for them, with an “unclaimed” page that highlights those with the most Flattrs on the various connected networks. Someone call Randall Munroe and let him know he has a whole bunch of unclaimed Flatttrs for the xkcd Twitter account. Ditto Wikipedia and the Torproject. Similarly, someone might want to alert Linus that his Github account is leading the way in unclaimed Github flattrs as well.
There are, also, some obvious social networks that are missing — though I’ve been told that Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr are obviously key among them. It sounds like Google+ may be a bit further down the list. All in all, we still love the idea of Flattr, and think that this is a good step as it evolves its business. It still requires getting people to sign up to pay — and that, of course, will always be a big hurdle — but making it easier to do something once you have joined seems like a very good thing.