Build and Analyze talked about Flattr
Last week on Build and Analyze over at 5by5 mentioned that Flattr had been the cause for Instacast being rejected from the Apple App Store. Avid Flattr-fans and users probably reacted a bit curiously to this podcast, so I wanted to go over the points they made.
I wanted to write and publish this last week, but I believe that taking it in, and also seeing the response from Flattr themselves on the initial podcast was a good thing together with contemplation.
In last weeks episode of Build and Analyze, episode 78, Marco Arment creator of Instapaper, and 5by5′s own Dan Benjamin gave us quite a nice analysis of Flattr. Considering Flattr’s own response, I’m not surprised they replied with another podcast. Mainly this post goes over the points made in the first podcast, since the second one wasn’t saying much they hadn’t brought up already. (and here’s Flattr’s second reply, to the second podcast)
They brought the topic up because of the rejection in the Apple App Store for the new update of Instacast, an iOS podcatcher which would allow you to automatically flattr (give money to) each episode you listened to. I need to emphasize here, that it would require the podcasts to have signed up with Flattr, and made sure they buttons were related as payment in the RSS or ATOM feed. (Also available automatically in the latest version of the Flattr WordPress plugin)
Marco and Dan manage to describe Flattr better than most people, a lot of credit should go to them for this. They are correct that it is for any website, but it’s dependent on integration from these sites in most cases exceptions will be described below.
So the catch is 2 fold, or 3 depending on how you want to count.
Part one, you have to sign up for an account, if someone’s flattred one of your other accounts, like Twitter, Soundcloud and Github (a few of the exceptions mentioned above), to claim your flattrs.
Part two, no money is withdrawn for your account as long as the flattr is pending. It’s not the money that’s pending, but the actual click, so it will count to the month the account (as in part one) was claimed. Example, none of the flattrs for the things in the “Unclaimed” catalog have been withdrawn from the users who made them.
Part three, you will not be able to withdraw any money until you reach €10, but you’re able to loop it back into the system at any time if you want to flattr other people.
Marco naturally brings up Instapaper, and that he does not feel that integrating Flattr is something he would want to do. Which is perfectly understandable and I respect that. I had a few thoughts and idea’s about how he could do an integration similar to the Instacast one, and very similar to what Readability does, but then again Instacast did get stopped in the Apple App Store because of the integration, so let’s leave that for now.
Readability was brought up as well. So how does the two compare, money wise? At Flattr no of your money will be waiting for a user who will never sign up. With the unclaimed system they have in place you can show that you want to support, but you’ll never lose any money if the account is never claimed. While Readability saves your money for when, if, they sign up, and probably (not sure about this) up to 6 months before they claim the money.
The feeling that you’re bothering people when it comes to money is quite relevant. I would like to combine this with explaining part of the feeling, at least I feel, when I use Flattr and with what Dan said about Marco’s other app.
“This is awesome I’m buying this right now”, Dan says. He didn’t really need a breastfeeding app, but it’s a clear way to show support, right? This is the core of how Flattr works, I’d almost go as far as to say EXACTLY how Flattr works. You don’t give money to people because you have to or need to, but because you want to. TAKE MY MONEY, is what the user base of about 80-90% say, who are only givers.
Asking for it every day, is not something you need to do. But letting people know that there are easy ways to support your work, even if they don’t want to (or can) buy the T-shirt is a good thing.
Marco comments on the Flattr-revenue maybe not being worth it for most people, and that he’d logged in to see how much money he’d earned and it’d only been 2 Euros. Quite disappointing to some I can understand, especially if you usually sell an app for $4.99 in the App Store. In the second episode he had logged on again to see that he now had €50 waiting for him. This is money that’s trickled in without him having put any effort to advertising that people can support his work via Flattr. Minimum effort, this is people who already used Flattr that said they wanted to support him via it, basically.
“Works for a small group of people.” is something we hear from Marco. Here I would like to ask a question, how do you define “Works for”. To make a living on? That’s probably only a few. To pay servers on a yearly basis? Probably quite a lot more.
Then again, we have the number of about 80-90% of the active users being givers. They only use Flattr because they want to support. This actually excludes the occasional giver that receives a flattr even if they don’t aim to. I would say it works perfectly fine to them, only issue they have is that they want to support more things and that everything might not be as available as we could wish for. Which is something we’ve heard and seen Flattr work on making better.
Both in the first and second episode, from Build and Analyze, Dan still hasn’t checked how much money he’s earned there. Which I find unfortunate. Personally I was overwhelmed the other day (last week I think):
WAIT WHAT?! 1 788 Flattrs ReceivedFrom 199 People <- That’s an AWESOME number, for me!! Thanks everyone! Honestly <3 <3 <3
— maloki (@kinkymal) May 23, 2012
For me, knowing that 199 unique people said they like my shit, something I said, something I wrote or one of my crazy YouTube videos (don’t ask) is rewarding in itself.
Flattr is popular in Europe, this is correct. But Flattr is not our PayPal, it doesn’t have the same functionality. What Flattr and PayPal call micro-payments is quite different. Minimum via PayPal without drowning in fee’s are $1, which might seem micro to some, but when Flattr allows you to give €.01, you can start to imagine the difference.
Yes Flattr’s fee might seem high, but as long as you give less than €5/$5 via Flattr it’s 10% fee is still lower than PayPal’s fees. The fee is deducted at the receiver end when all the money they received that month is added up.
Please, Dan and Marco, check your earnings for the month. Considering that Marco doesn’t advertise it anywhere what does he expect? With the tipjar analogy, if you hide it there’s not going to be much money in it either, will it?
I would advise to try one month of actually telling people it’s a possible way to support you via Flattr, like on your FAQ under “Money?”, and you might be in luck. Now you’ve spent 2 weeks talking about it, which is likely to have raised your money a bit higher. Has anyone ever really gotten anything significant without effort?
“I signed up for the account, to see how much money it was. Not much at the time, but without having done anything with it since I’ve earned €50.” -Pretty good.
There is a time for everything, the only question is when. Micropayments have been on the table and tried quite a lot of times, but the timing hasn’t been right yet. Is it now? I don’t know, time is yet to tell.
I hope this didn’t seem too hostile, I’m trying to look at the points made and make clear how Flattr works in relation to that. I really liked both the podcasts about Flattr from Build and Analyze, and hopefully it made the guys over there think about some of the issues you’ve encountered.
Disclaimer, I’m a former employee of Flattr.