As the social sharing features of Twitter and Facebook "Like" proliferate around the web, I've noticed one sidebar item slowly disappearing from blogs: requests for money. These used to be fairly common on blogs, e.g., "Hi! Hope you enjoy reading. Please consider donating to help me pay the bills :)" Even Allie Brosh, one of my favorite bloggers out there (whose stuff is shared religiously by devoted followers) has such a request on her blog:
Luckily, Allie is amazing and this request is credibly reluctant, but still, it is undeniably cheesy, ugly, and has exactly the same look as such requests did 5 years ago. Worst of all for the cause, it is kind of a pain for the reader to go through the PayPal process. As cute buttons have been developed across the web, it's surprising that PayPal hasn't decided to innovate a bit upon their peer-to-peer processing to make micropayments for web content a bit easier.
But this is why I'm glad to see the launch of Flattr, a social micro-payment platform that makes it extremely easy for consumers of the web to not only "Like" content, but actually show some financial appreciation for it. What I love about their model is that participants choose a set budget for each month for their online web consumption, and that amount is divided equally among all of the authors/sites that they choose to "Flattr". So I can commit $10/month for all the ad hoc web content that I consume and if I Flattr 10 articles, then each author will get a dollar. It's a small but tangible way to say, "your content is valuable enough that it deserves more than just to be further shared."
For bloggers, aesthetically, the benefit is that Flattr is an unobtrusive button that you can put next to your Twitter or Facebook buttons without looking desparate for cash. Your readers can simply click without being taken to any other site to confirm the transaction, reducing the barriers to participation. It still remains anonymous and at the time, the reader isn't committing to any set value, so even if by the end of the month I end up Flattring 50 articles and each one only gets $0.20, I don't feel cheap at the time, which may otherwise prevent me from participating at all (for more on this phenomenon, see here).
I see Flattr as a great step forward for content creators and consumers. People deserved to be compensated for good work and consumers are willing to pay to keep the things the value going.