Image representing Flattr as depicted in Crunc... is a great way to support online media. Image via CrunchBase

Those of us who dabble in new media have a problem.

We have a lot of great ideas for podcasts, blogs, podiobooks, music and everything else. So we start our projects out of our house, we know how to generate an audience for them so they gain popularity, so we put more time and our own money into them (sometimes as much as adding another full-time job to our lives), and they grow, and this spirals until we have a wealth of artists with thousands of global followers and fans.

That’s not the problem. The problem is that online advertisers only pay-per-click or pay-per-performance, so unless the audience goes to the artists’ sites and clicks through their links daily, they can’t generate any money for their art.

By the way, can you imagine if advertisers only paid-per-performance for TV, radio or print advertising? All pre-internet media would disappear within a month. But that’s another discussion for another time.

The problem is that an online artist can entertain more people globally in a week than the hottest street performer sees in three months, but the guy on the street can live comfortably on his tips and the online artist may never see a penny in return.

But there’s good news! There are a lot of people out there on the internet that want to throw tips to these online artists. We know this is true because they do become paying subscribers of shows when they can. We know it’s true because they do buy Kindle books from indies. We know it’s true because they buy music from indie artists.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that you, me, and everybody else in the world only have a limited amount of money we can share, so when we run out some of our favorite artists get missed for no better reason than the fact that they weren’t in our faces at the moment when we had cash.

Enter Flattr.

Flattr is the closest thing to the realization of a thought many of us have had for years. That thought is, “If I could budget to support all of the things I like online in one place like I do with my phone or cable or magazine subscriptions, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

It works like this:

  1. You set up an account with Flattr
  2. You put money in your account and tell Flattr how much you want to spend on Flattrs every month.
  3. You find online content-creators (like job-creators, except they actually do what their name suggests) that you want to donate to on Flattr’s site and click the button to Flattr them (you can choose to do it on a one-time or recurring basis).
  4. At the end of the month, Flattr divvies your budget amount between all of the people/sites/etc. you Flattr’ed and the next month starts anew.

“It’s perfect Mat! What’s the downside?” Well, there are a couple.

  • People you Flattr will probably not make as much money from you as they would if you subscribed to them directly. However, if a huge mass of users join this system, the beneficiaries will have the potential to draw in MANY more subscribers. I won’t say quantity of donations trumps amount of an individual donation every time, but in my experience, that’s usually the case. Look at apps, for example. Look at WoW or Farmville. Look at public television.
  • Not everybody you want to give money to has a Flattr account to receive it. However, it does let you message them a request that they join via Twitter. If they get enough of them, they’ll join.

The final analysis: the success of Flattr hinges on the number of users, both on the giving and receiving sides. If you’re inclined to give donations to the people online that give you as much enjoyment as all of the other media you pay for without thinking, I encourage you to sign up and to encourage the people you patronize to as well. Even if your budget is set to only $5 per month, their share is money they would not have had otherwise. And if all of their patrons do the same, they’ll get what they need to bring you more and better content.


3 comments so far

  1. circusofhumanity on

    Interesting concept but I think I’ll stick with Quick Books Online for the budgeting/tracking (because then it is all in one place).

    • matweller on

      Neat, I didn’t realize QuickBooks had a system built into it for people to donate money to you. I’ll have to look into it.

  2. Skyhook Internet Marketing on

    I really like what you said about the online artist being able to reach thousands or even millions of people every month without seeing a penny, but the street musician probably lives semi-comfortably off tips.

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