That's the idea behind European startup Flattr. Here's how it works: Flattr users deposit a small amount of money into their Flattr account. Then, users can click on Flattr buttons that content creators like bloggers put on their websites. Each month, the money in the user's account is divided by the number of Flattr buttons they've clicked, and the money is then distributed to the creators of that content.
It's essentially a Facebook Like button but with money involved.
Users decide how much money to deposit, and users decide where they want that money to go. According to Flattr, anything can be clicked, including blogs, pictures and videos.
As a blogger, I'm torn on this idea. I do understand the importance of driving original content creation,and money is a great incentive. However, I don't know how viable of an option this is. Here's a short list of what Flattr is up against.
Why Flattr could fail:
- There's a huge dependence on honesty from content creators not to steal content from other people. It wouldn't be too difficult to re-post something and add a Flattr button.
- Lawsuits will always be a looming fear, because if someone is getting paid for another person's work, you can be sure that person will be taken to court.
- The 100-million dollar question: Will users pay for content they already get for free? History isn't on Flattr's side, because several similar startups have folded in the past.
- Flattr didn't put the cart before the horse, making sure they had a polished website and an active group of beta testers before moving forward.
- The whole concept of third-party website buttons has become increasingly prevalent over the past couple of months. Facebook Like buttons and TweetMeme buttons can be found everywhere these days.
- By having a user-determined monthly fee, Flattr avoids being accused of over charging. Users will be more likely to open up their checkbooks if they have that level of control.
So, say what you want about imitation, this startup hopes to make money the sincerest form of flattery.