If you offer something of value on the Internet, you certainly want to make sure that you can at least cover your expenses. Some bloggers manage to sell merchandise or an ebook or they earn enough money through affiliate links. The best choice is probably to use a mix of various income streams.
One of them are micro-donations. Micro-donations can form an alternative to advertising, which is often considered intrusive. Therefore many visitors choose to block ad banners. Many years ago, advertising was a good way to make visitors pay for what they consume. But these days are over. Today you cannot expect to generate enough income just by offering content on a website.
Micro-donations with a monthly cap
I use Flattr since the early days of its existence. This formerly Swedish1 micro-donation service started as a community-driven startup that let you support creators with a like button that also sent over some money.
After a relaunch a few months ago, Flattr came up with a browser extension that would measure your interaction on a page and then send some flattrs (which are units that later convert to shares of a monthly subscription) to the registered owner of that page.
That meant that Flattr had to track a part of your path through the web, which raised concerns about privacy. It also led to difficulties regarding the implementation on mobile devices.
In June Flattr announced a change: While the browser extension is still available, you mainly support now creators by recurring contributions. The monthly total amount that a contributor sends to all recipients is still capped. In my view that makes Flattr a very attractive service for contributors. There won’t be any unpleasant surprises at the end of the month. You only pay what you beforehand decided to pay, and this amount is split into more or less tiny fractions.
Why PayPal is not the same
So what is the advantage over a PayPal donation button?
- Flattr is much easier. Once visitors have signed up and set a monthly subscription, they can support other websites with the click of a button. There is no check-out process for each donation. If you want to support 20 creators, you won’t have 20 ongoing payment agreements in your PayPal account.
- Flattr lets you send tiny amounts. You don’t even need to bother calculating cents, you just decide the factor, that is how many “flattrs” a creator deserves.
Flattr has transformed itself from a geeky toy to a serious solution that is ready for the masses. Of course, it still needs to reach the critical mass of users for sustainable operation. I’m not sure if the folks at Flattr rely now on word of mouth or plan a huge publicity campaign.
There is definitely a chicken and egg dilemma when it comes to the question who needs to join first in order to create the necessary momentum: creators or contributors? I think that creators should do the first step because they can easily address many contributors. For a contributor it would be much more difficult to convince a creator to offer micro-donations.
As a creator I don’t expect serious amounts of money for the next weeks or months. Since there are no monthly costs and offering micro-donations doesn’t stop me from using also other income channels, I simply keep Flattr running and see what happens. In any case I think it makes sense to explore new ways how people can pay for content on the Internet. If the income is more than what I get through advertising, I’m already happy.