Flattr, the micropayments service launched by Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and acquired in April by AdBlock Plus owner Eyeo, has been relaunched, and now lets users pay content creators automatically, without any manual involvement.
The first incarnation of Flattr was genius, but it was flawed. Users could create a budget, and they could distribute it to content creators they appreciate, simply by pressing a button on each page they visited. The problem is that few publishers actually used Flattr (it was largely the preserve of independent, one-man blogs, rather than large journalistic or creative institutions), and it was easy to forget to actually press the buttons.
A consequence of this is that, unlike Patreon, nobody was really able to make a living off Flattr income. It offered merely ‘beer money,’ which supplemented existing revenue, like advertising, sales of merchandise, or even a day job.
The latest update to Flattr turns this process on its head. For starters, for a site to earn revenue, they don’t need to embed any widgets or buttons (and the old-school Flattr buttons were admittedly dog-ugly). They merely need to register with Flattr and provide bank account information for disbursements. End-users don’t need to remember to click buttons on content they appreciate. Instead, they just have to download a browser extension, which registers the content a user engages with, and spreads their monthly ‘tipping’ budget accordingly.
In a statement, Till Faida, CEO of Eyeo, said: “Our vision at eyeo was always to give users control how to fund the content they consume online. I am extremely proud that with Flattr we can now offer publishers a tool that allows them to generate additional revenue, without any additional effort. Our goal is to have 10 million paying Flattr users. It looks like on average users are going to spend $5 on content, which means Flattr will create $500 million additional revenues for publishers all across the web, which is a good start.”
Math issues aside (10 million multiplied by $5 is $50 million. Assuming he means annually, 12 multiplied by $50 million is $600 million), at first glance, $500 million sounds like a lot. That said, given the global online advertising spend is expected to reach $335.5 billion by 2020, it’s a drop in the ocean. As before, it’ll be nice supplemental income, but it’s unlikely to unseat any of the traditional revenue streams for online publishers, like advertising, merchandise, and events.