Second thoughts on Flattr

I’ve had a chance to think a bit more about Flattr, and what kind of impact it can have on the ‘net.

(My first post about Flattr, for those that missed it: http://b.tc.dk/2010/05/flattr/)

First of all, and this may seem kind of strange, I’m a bit scared of the negative impact that this can have on the kind of content we’ll see on the net.

The Negative

Consider this: If you read an article on the net, what will make you click the Flattr button?

My bet is, and I think most surveys confirm this, there’s a lot bigger chance of you clicking on a Flattr button, that’s attached to an article you agree with, a lot bigger chance. This is why people subscribe to news papers that they agree with. Follow RSS feeds that tell them what they want to hear.

We do not need something that will strengthen that tendency. I’m afraid that Flattr, if successful, will do that. I’ve a feeling that re-embedding the latest Lady Gaga impersonation, will give a lot more Flattr clicks, then a well researched article about something complex.

I’m fully aware that the people who do the well researched article, will do it no matter what. It’s not about financial compensation, it’s about burning for something important. But, if mister-serious-guy, at the end of the month looks at his Flattr statement and sees that the bulk of his payment came from that one, silly-lady-gaga-video post he made for fun, he may feel a bit weak in the knees. And the next time he considers adding something fluffy and cute to his site, the chances are just a bit higher that he’ll do it.

The reason Flattr strengthens this tendency, more than the usual ads and product placement (i.e. paid links to Amazon), is that clicking on an ad, is mostly related to the content of the ad, not the content of the page where it’s shown. I may hate the page, but the Ad can still be relevant to me. Not so with the Flattr button – I’m directly asked to donate money to somebody, who wrote something I don’t like.

Another down side, is that there’s no way to reward something you found very useful, as compared to something that was mildly useful. I can’t click the button twice. So there will naturally be a tendency, to break your content into as many small bits as possible (I should have written this paragraph, as a whole new blog item – added some more fluff and possible a photo. So, consider it a freebie <g>).

The positive

The positive side of this is that if you place a Flattr button on content that you know your visitors will like, you’ll probably get a click. Anything like music, art and photography will be able to benefit from this. People seek out the things they like, and will be able to reward what they see.

Imagine all the music sites like spotify, last.fm, or Grooveshark, but where the artists can upload their music and add their own Flattr button (I guess somebody like cdbaby or Zenfolio could do it now). I wouldn’t mind if Grooveshark did a small pop-up once in a while, saying “you have been listening to The Curve for half an hour now – Want to [Flattr] some money to The Curve?”.

Or an e-book reader on my Android going “You are reading the free version of Iain Banks Excession, want to [Flattr] him?”

I guess you get the picture.

Conclusion

A bit early to really conclude anything yet, but I think we have a big potential for direct payment to artists, who create original content, which is great. We also have something that might strengthen the tendency for less radical and unpopular content, which is kind of sad.

But then again time will tell.

Oh, one last thing, just so that you heard it here first: Flattr + Chatroulette = Win!

5 thoughts on “Second thoughts on Flattr

  1. Kalleguld

    I sort of agree with your thoughts on negative aspects, but I have some additional thought:
    What you speak of is already going on. People can already tell what articles are the most popular on their blog by looking at their page hits. But the ‘page hit’-method is a ‘pay first’ way of looking at it.
    As a reader, you see a header and maybe 1-2 paragraphs of text, and that is what you use to judge if the article is worth reading. And page hits are (or were, until Flattr) the only way of judging if people liked your article. Naturally, that leads to a lot of effort in headers and teaser-paragraphs. That again may tempt some to sensationalist headlines and short articles.
    With Flattr, the user gets the product first, and then decides if the content was worth anything. So users now have a way of rewarding the article as a whole, instead of just the header. And that is a First in media history.

    Reply
  2. TC Post author

    Hi Kalleguld,

    Thanks for your comment – very good point!

    Which actually brings out an interesting side effect. Some of the discussions around flattr, has been the possibility of getting flattrs on other peoples content. Mostly around embedding (videos, but also sites like tumblr), but often I find that a crap article, can have some really interesting comments.

    I increasingly find this with sites like slashdot. The headline is sensationalist, the write-up is just plain wrong, but there will often be an interesting comment relevant to the topic. Actually telling me when the article/write-up should have told me.

    If that comments has a flattr button…

    Hm, maybe I should see if a text version of the simple flattr code fits in a slashdot signature…

    Reply
  3. AkiRoss

    I had the same thoughts, but my conclusion are the following.

    First: as dealing with money (and everyone has a different conception on how money shall be handled), people should start to think TWICE about what they are doing. I think that, even if the given amount can be 1 cent or 0.001 cent, everybody will consider “hey, am I really willing to give money for THIS?” or “Am I giving the money to the RIGHT PERSON?”.

    Secondly, I don’t think that it’s too bad to “random click”. Actually, I think that is bad *now* because our (i.e. the diffused) conception is to gather money and not to give them.
    I think that money should move from one to another and nobody should really “keep” them.
    No matter if you’re giving some to the wrong content producer… Errors may happen when you do a lot of things, but don’t doing things to avoid errors, prevent you for doing a lot of GOOD things (i.e. giving money to who’s really worth it).

    So, I see Flattr as a great way to start to think BETTER on what we are doing, but also to get use to share more, invest, give and to be more grateful toward who creates what we get.

    Reply
  4. Brad

    Why does there have to be a flattr button or badge (kachingle’s term) at all? Why wouldn’t sites just embed hidden code to record the page hits (only counting those hit by people who have actually paid)? Sure, you’re going to pay for stuff you don’t agree with occasionally, but there is still a mental transaction cost of deciding to click the flattr button. This is an unnecessary task. Content providers should be getting paid for viewers like they do on television.

    Reply
  5. agge

    I’ve considered this, but it’s not really the trend I’ve been seeing on flattr so far. It will be intersting to see what happens though.

    Reply

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