Flattr is a service, where you (and everyone else) can spend a fixed value of money (like 2€ per month) for the high quality content you get in the web. Or for the stuff you really enjoy. Or so. By pressing the “flattr-button”, you direct some of your money to the maker of that content. If you’re on the other side and produce content for the web (may it be high quality or not), you can hope that people using flattr direct this money to you. Should you not flattr anything during one month, your money goes to some charity organisation. If you want more exact descriptions, you can find a good introduction on the flattr website and some thoughts of tante about the service.
But why exactly is such a service the future of high quality content on the web? First, there are different models of paying someone for content.
- Not. If someone doesn’t get a reward, he can’t pay the bank loan, he doesn’t feel his work is appreciated, he produces lower quality content or just stops producing content.
- The old way of journalism makes a magazine (this means a website since the last years) pay an autor for his writing. Today, content is free, and people don’t pay for magazines (other than generation pageviews for ads), so the author cannot be paid anymore.
- Another possibility is paid subscription. In this world, not many people would read the New York Times, if they took money, but some will. Sadly, this only solves a small part of the problem, as people wouldn’t pay much, and you can’t pay the authors of the Times with this small amount of money. Additionally, people won’t sign up for every other website they’d read – they would rather switch to free content (there’s enough of that). Also, people would likely want to pay different websites for different well-done posts, and not one site even if not everything on there is really worth it.
- The third possibility is paying the authors directly, giving them a donation or sending them a letter with money by oldfashioned (non-E) mail.
This third way seems to be the most fair, but paying people producing content on the web is a hard thing for multiple reasons:
- You don’t want to send old-fashioned (non-E) mail
- Every online transaction is prey to transaction fees (some are bigger, some are smaller). Usually, there’s also a minimum fee that is taken, so often you cannot give small amounts of money to an autor, as the paying service itself would take the whole pie. An you surely won’t want to pay 10€ for a nice post.
- Every transaction makes you type in sensitive data and needs keystrokes and mouseclicks – a tedious process.
Flattr tries to fix this. They play bank account without fees for you. You might think that paypal (or any other service on the web who can accept money) could have done the same thing – yes, they all could, but paypal (and those others) are greedy and don’t do free transactions. With Flattr, you know how much money you give away (for a good cause basically), but its not much and you can decide who gets it. That its a built-in more meaningful Digg is only a bonus, but it’s a good one after all.
This way, Flattr may be THE way to pay for online content based on free decision. How they’re going to make the service pay for itself isn’t all too clear, but I could imagine it to be the same model that a bank uses – you hold people’s money, so it can work for you till it gets redistributed – a nice model that doesn’t do no harm. The only real problem seem to be the old gatekeepers, like paypal, who want some money of people transferring money to Flattr – but as you can charge your account for 5 month with only 10€, this doesn’t cut in too badly.
Flattr is still in beta, hope you like the idea. You can sign up for a beta invite on their site if you want to try it. And from now on, you may also flattr my posts if you like.
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