Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Voluntary Online Payment Models

A while back, Canadian Financial DIY reported on a new model for voluntary payments for online content called Flattr. The basic idea of Flattr is that users take a monthly fixed amount of money and spread it around in equal shares to the various web sites they choose to “flattr”. A question I have is whether this is really any better than directly soliciting contributions.

I decided to put my money where my mouth is, or is that your money where my mouth is? In any case, I’ve added a button at the top right of the blog page for direct voluntary payments.  (Since the time of writing, I've removed this button.) I’ve decided to keep the content part of my blog entries free of paid content, affiliate programs, etc., and just make direct voluntary payments possible. I prefer to maintain a clear boundary between content and advertising on my blog.

It turns out that Paypal makes it easy to set up a payment button like this, but the simplest approach uses a button labeled “Donate”. This sounds too much like a charitable contribution to me. I decided to go with “$upport this blog!” to make it clear that contributions are not charity, but are encouragement to me to continue investigating financial matters and writing about them.

Whether this direct payment method is better for users than Flattr probably depends on the user. Flattr makes it easier to spread a little money around to a lot of web sites. However, direct payments are probably easier for users who only want to make occasional contributions and not be bothered with committing to payments every month.

In any case, once Flattr matures and publishes figures on the distribution of money directed to various content creators, I can compare my numbers to theirs.


  1. Interesting - I would think it's hard for people to dig into their pockets to support bloggers,especially if they are the frugal types that visit PF blogs.

    I would think that most people aren't aware of how much time many bloggers devote to providing quality content for their readers, often for little or no remuneration. Still, I don't know how many would be willing to pay for the content. Let us know how it works!

  2. 2 Cents: You may be right. I have similar reservations about Flattr. I guess we'll know the truth over time.

  3. I think your blog is great, and you should be rewarded for your time. I just don't think a voluntary method will work nearly as well as the more traditional methods. Keep in mind, regular readers are ad blind, there's only a few who would get miffed, and they aren't worth your time, and certainly are in the minority.

    I think it's pretty clear from your writing that not much is going to influence you or introduce bias, and if it ever did, you would probably be the first to disclose it.


  4. Gordo: Thanks for the kind words. One thing that troubles me about Flattr is that I can't seem to find a text description of how it works. They have a nice video with an analogy about slicing cakes, but I wanted to know more about the exact mechanisms. I assume that signed up users just click a button on a site they like to "Flattr" it, but I don't know this for sure.

  5. Michael,
    You might check out The service has been live for some time, has over 100 sites, and has hundreds of Kachinglers (those who donate). The Kachingle model is similar to flattr, but proven. Several Pay-Outs have been made to Kachingle sites, each close to $100. Each of these sites have 30+ Kachinglers, so the crowdfunding model works. Unlike Paypal Donate buttions, the site visitors do not need to log on for each site, they don't have to think about how much to donate, and they get recognition on for their kachingling activity.
    Joe Eyre,