Is Flattr the new Facebook Like, but this time with real money?

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Flattr is a new startup with an inovative business model, coming out of Sweden. In fact it’s the brainchild of a group of people formerly associated with The [infamous] Pirate Bay, including Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi. It’s highly ironic that Flattr has sprung from a similar group that refused to pay for content, like movies. But Flattr just might work because there are already signs that the micropayments startup is getting grass-roots traction – and it’s still only in closed beta. Flattr is reminiscent of Digg or perhaps Facebook Like buttons – but this time with real money. That could make things very interesting.

According to one blogger he has had €875.89 for the month of June from Flattr and the amount has increased steadily upwards. Plus Flattr (as in flattering someone and a flat-rate payment model) is already in use by two major German newspapers, completely unprompted: taz.de and Freitag.de

There are also lists appearing of people appearing who are starting to make actual money. Admittedly these are small amounts, but that fact it’s even happening is interesting. Flattr has competition in the form of Kachingle but it’s fair to say the latter is not getting quite the same amount of buzz.

So how does it work?

The trouble with micropayments to date, say via Paypal, is that the threshold for donating to a site is high, and sending just a small sum like €0.01 is tedious. So every user that sets up a Flattr account pays a monthly fee — a minimum €2 — that they are willing to contribute for any kind of online content. When the user finds something they like that has a Flattr button, they can click the button to “reward” the content provider.

At the end of the month, the user’s monthly fee (remember this could be as low as €2) is split equally among the holders of the content that they “flattered”. Remember, clicking one more button doesn’t add to your monthly Flattr fee, it just divides the fee up equally. Of course, there needs to be enough content creators willing to include Flattr buttons on their sites and enough Flattr users (the service is currently in beta and an invite is required to set up an account).

Flattr’s system encourages participation, since in order to get money you also need to offer it as a button. Plus, before you can get flattred you need to funds to your account – so you have to pay into the system to get something out. If you empty your account the flattr payments stop happening. And if you do flattr nothing in a month your budget goes to charity.

Flattr can be used as a compliment to donations or advertising or even for getting small donations for open source software. Third-party applications are now starting to spring up around Flattr including ImFlattrd (social network) and a Firefox add-on (to flattr any content).

Imagine a world where journalists are paid according to how many flattrs they attract? It may still happen…

UPDATE: We have beta invites for 50 random commenters on this post.

  • http://twitter.com/eileentso Eileen Burbidge

    Excellent!! So when can I flattr TCEurope posts? ;) (Disclosure: https://flattr.com/profile/eileentso)

    • Anonymous

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  • Wello

    Removing the vowel after the R is getting kinda.. old.

    • John

      Why would i be inclined to pay money for a service that i’m already getting for free? I see small pockets of people using this, not widespread mass use whatsoever. There’s not enough people out there that sentimental they’d want to offer money to a publisher if they didn’t have to.

    • josh

      Removing it BEFORE the R is even worse…

      • Wello

        Lol I didn’t check my comment twice :P

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

      You do realize that those vowels are expensive? Flatter.com has almost certainly been registered since 1999, and you’re not going to be able to get it for less than $10,000.

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

      Yay, more Flattr users are on the way! I got my beta invite at the end of June. I haven’t received too many Flattrs yet, though. I’m afraid that it might suffer from a similar issue to Digg, where nobody looks at the “Upcoming” section.

    • jenahs

      uh-oh here we go again. Hopefully, it wont turn out to be a scam.

      Facebook is as good as it is now, perhaps if it will be improved, Diaspora (open-facebook) can do something about it.

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  • http://www.vccafe.com VC Cafe

    Interesting that Flattr was started to help people share money, not only content.

    Also interesting to see if the micro payments would work, given the London Times decision to go with a simple £2 flat fee to access content after lots of research.

    Personally, I think that it’s a nice idea, but will it work?

    • http://great-hikes.com/blog Andy

      Flat fees might work for large publisher with a reputation, but voluntary micropayments seem to be the way to go for personal blogs.

      In an ideal world, the ISP would replace flattr: collect the (mandatory) fee and resitribute it to all websites that you visit. After all, the ISPs seems to be the only ones in the chain that you pay real money (as opposed to adverts) to serve content to you–and they get all their content for free.

      In the meantime, I’d love to try out flattr.

  • Nick

    Do I understand correctly that this fully relies on the charity of users to donate each month 2 pounds or more for the content they view? I.e. there is no other benefit to those users than rewarding content providers? Or is a Flattr membership and minimum donation required to view certain content? Still like the idea. Cheers

    Nick

    • Paul

      No benefit to consumers directly. Just easier to give the creator something. After signup just click like buttons.

      It’s way easier than paypal or others that would take multiple clinks and way more time.

      I hope it catches on.

      • http://graversen.org Daniel Graversen

        There are benifits for the consumer, the content providers is more interested in creating qualtiy content.

  • http://www.imafish.co.uk Pete White

    As a user I’m not sure if I would be willing to pay for something I would get for free however I’ve often wanted to pay my gratitude for something I’ve found useful – perhaps it takes a small change in thinking.

    Defo be interested in checking this out for my blog. Would be happy to report back any earnings.

  • Cody

    Flattr looks interesting, I’d love to try it out!

  • caren

    Interested to see if this will catch hold in the US. One question…will we be able to pre-determine what charity the money will go to at the end of the month?

  • http://www.ling.pl pundit

    sounds really cool! this actually MAY change the picture… People will click, the only problem is to persuade them to spend these 2 pounds per month (still something). BTW, I’d love to get one of the invitations ;)

  • http://www.prestondlee.com/ Preston

    Would love an invite to Flattr. I have been eyeing it for a while.

  • Mike

    I’d love a beta invite, thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

    UPDATE: We have beta invites for 50 random commenters on this post.

    • vibz

      I would love to try this out…

    • kiran

      me want!

    • http://www.siteliner.com/dev/ Matt Lawson

      OKAY :-) Please send me a random invite! :-)

      I will glady pay to participate! Im curious to see who is going to crack this nut! I actually worry that writers will not get paid enough to write well researched stories! :-) This seems like a nice start!

    • http://www.jonathanmacdonald.com jmac

      would love to try this…

      i first spoke about this model a few years ago as part of EverySingleOneOfUs with a concept called ‘advocurrency’ (http://www.jonathanmacdonald.com/?p=2663) which is precisely the theory applied here with Flattr

      hope i get an invite to see it in action..

    • Jennie

      I’d like to check this out.

    • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

      May I have one, please? :-)

    • Joel Binder

      Would love to try tis out.

    • Joel Binder

      Would love to try this out.

  • Phil McThomas

    I was with you until this bit:

    “Plus, before you can get flattred you need to funds to your account – so you have to pay into the system to get something out. If you empty your account the flattr payments stop happening.”

    If I’m a content producer, why do I have to fund my account? Shouldn’t I just be receiving checks?

    • http://twitter.com/jussir JussiR

      The minimum fee is 2€ a month. Is that really too much for you to pay? The idea is simply to get everyone involved and to spread the idea that you need to give to be able to receive.

      • phil mcthomas

        Its not the amount, it just makes the whole idea (which I like otherwise) sound like a scam.

        Its like the pyramid selling schemes where you have to pay first to be able to work there. Its like paying to get hired, with no promise of work.

    • http://twitter.com/jussir JussiR

      I don’t think there’s anything contradictory in Pirate Bay guys making Flattr. In fact, i think it makes perfect sense. The idea is not to kill revenue from content producers, but to kill unefficient copyright laws, and force producers to find new ways of getting revenue. And Flattr would definitely be an ideal way of doing that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michelesonoma Michele Clawson

    I’ve been hoping something like this would come about, thanks…I’m ready to Flattr you!

  • Eric

    i would like to try flattr out :)

  • http://funsaver.tumblr.com Ted Trembinski

    I’d be flattred to recieve an invite!

  • Ryan Hughes

    I’d like an invite please :)

  • Jack

    Sounds pretty cool!

  • http://reserveme.ca Lars Peterson

    It will be interesting to see if this gets much traction. I could see this being beneficial to start-up software companies that are initially offering their software for free use to provide them some sort of income (even if miniscule!). Also, interesting to think about the tax problems with this, as a simple transfer from individual to individual couldn’t be taxed, but if many corporations set up Flattr accounts they will record it as an expense and the income will currently unlikely be taxed.

    Sounds like a great idea nevertheless, I can’t wait to sign up!

  • Kenan Saatcioglu

    Interesting, can you send me an invite?

  • Jayton

    “Imagine a world where journalists are paid according to how many flattrs they attract?”

    Think how much better of a world we’d live in if everyone was paid according to the actual quality of their work. People would strive for some amazing things and push their brains beyond their capabilities.

    • Steve O'Hear

      That’s a terrible idea :)

    • http://www.derekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

      Utopia! Meanwhile on planet earth Keanu Reeves makes way more than Kenneth Branagh.

  • http://mmenchu.net Miguel Menchu

    I’d like an invite too, thanks!

  • http://shawnchittle.com Shawn Chittle

    I like to share gadget news, lifestyle stuff, and how-to info – mostly original content and some reposts. Trying to keep it useful and fun! It would be nice to get a little reward to keep plugging along.

  • http://www.AkuAku.org/ Dav Yaginuma

    I could see this taking off. It’s a bit like the Zivity model, but potentially for the entire web. I wonder if there is a way to use this on other things like mobile apps?

  • Diogo Pontes

    Seems interesting enough to give it a try. only the future will tell if it’s a good idea or not…

    Would love to try it out!

  • Karl

    I think this could do really well, imagine if it was included in your Internet monthly subscription, that way more people would take part and more money can be earnt, id like to see a deal done with isp’s

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