Got an email the other day from a consultant named Ben Sauer, wondering what I thought of Flattr. He’d even Googled “Scott McCloud Flattr” with no luck.
If he was surprised that I’ve kept my mouth shut this long, I can’t blame him. I’m a little surprised myself.
Flattr is a “social micropayment” (or, if you like, micro-donation) system that gives users the option of donating a lump sum each month that can then be proportionally distributed among content creators that the user visits.
The amount is up to the user and can be as little as a few bucks.
It’s not a bad idea on the face of it, and it’s getting a little extra attention because of the involvement of Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde.
These days, when micropayments come up, I tend to stay on the sidelines. I’m enough of a poster boy for what didn’t (couldn’t?) work in 2005, that I doubt any favorable attention from me is going to do anyone any good.
But the Pirate Bay connection is an interesting one, because it highlights the fact that what we think of as paid content markets are, on some level, becoming de facto donation communities for those of us who could get content elsewhere for nothing, but just decide not to.
“Willing sellers and willing buyers” was the phrase I kept coming back to. Even in 2005, I wasn’t interested in unbreakable paywalls or DRM, I believed that if there was a simple way for users to pay a little for the content they liked, enough people would do so to keep comics afloat without the need for coercion.
I was marked down as wrong in 2005, and there’s no guarantee that the makers of Flattr won’t suffer the same fate, but I’m glad somebody out there is still trying.
If closed systems like app stores and dedicated devices wind up putting paid content back into the driver’s seat, a lot of comics pros and the companies they work for might have reason to celebrate, but a community-based solution would make me a lot happier.
Does Flattr look like a community-based solution any of you would want to support?