Bootstrapping a Podcast Economy with Flattr
Very short version: I think Flattr has the possibility of enabling a reasonable podcast economy. If enough people use it, podcasters will be able to generate an income with minimal overhead. If I pointed you here from an email, it is because I want to give you money.
Slightly longer background:
If you are unfamiliar with, it is a very low friction microdonation system. The brilliant thing they did was to separate out the cash decision from the payment decision. Unlike most where you have to decide whether to pay $0.03 vs $0.05, that decision has a mental transaction cost. With Flattr, you allocate a pool of money to pay each month then you "Flattr" which is basically the same thing as a Digg, a Facebook like or a +1. The things you like in a month, that pool of money is spread equally across all of those. Brilliant.
I have had Flattr on my blog/podcast for a few years. It has been an interesting experiment and worth doing, but not a huge revenue producer for me. To this date, the using of Flattr was a niche, early adopter thing. My hope – and the reason for my push for advocacy – is that this spreads out into a more widely adopted platform.
In a world where this was as common as, say, Digg was at its height then there would be a reasonable amount of money flowing in a roughly meritocratic manner. The more listeners you have, in general the more money that should flow towards you. The money that comes into podcasting now is distributed quite bi-modally. The top 5% makes livable money from Stamps.com and Legal Zoom et al, the bottom 95% makes little or nothing. I've been lucky enough to sell t-shirts and make a little from sponsorships via the very kind folks at Backbeat Media. Over the course of this podcast, I am probably close to break even on hosting, equipment and various expenses. That probably puts me in the top 20 percentile of podcasters because most people pay expenses and earn nothing.
My pledge is that I will flattr every episode of every podcast in my subscription list that has it enabled. If you run off of WordPress, you can install the Flattr plugin and go to town. Make sure you check the option to put payment information in your RSS/Atom feed and you are good to go. I'm still looking for auto-flattring solutions, but for now I'm manually clicking the button on the site of every pocaster that has it on their site. The trickle has begun, I hope to see a wider adoption over time. If the amount climbs enough, I will increase the amount of money I give.
My appeal is two-fold. If you are a podcast listener and a fan, sign up for an account. The site is in Euros, that is no impediment to Americans. The money will auto-convert from your credit card. All of the podcasters that you listen to, flattr their episodes either automatically via a podcatcher or manually.
If you are a podcaster, create a Flattr account and let people give you money. If you run WordPress it is super easy, others might be slightly more work but nothing is hard to do. If you have technical questions, I volunteer to be your tech support. Be patient, don't expect anything huge at first but I can guarantee nothing about this will suck money away from you. At worst, you wasted a few minutes. At best, you might find yourself paying your hosting or more with the money that flows in.
Because this is a "boil the ocean" situation, the early going has been and is tough. It makes little sense to sign up as a listener when there is nothing to flattr. As a creator, it makes little sense to invest in a platform with few users. Let's cut through that, and push on both fronts simultaneously with a mutual leap of faith. Neither group has much to lose, so let's all just do it. I'm doing both ends myself, so I'm as invested as I can be. 5by5.tv does it for all their shows, the biggest network adopter I know of at this point. As Rage Against the Machine sings: "It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?"of
This is already long, in a future post I'll talk about auto-flattr solutions for podcast listeners.
For now, I urge everyone to give this a try. You click like, +1 and similar things all day every day. You understand the paradigm, let's do it in a system where your money matches your attention.