My Flattr Experiment: 30 Days Later

My Flattr Experiment: 30 Days Later Image

Last month I promised that I would do a 30-day experiment with the new micropayment service Flattr to see how much money I made, if any, and how well it worked (or might eventually work) as a business model.

I’ve now crossed the 30-day threshold (a few days late actually) and I’m here with an update.

To recap the idea of the experiment, Flattr is a cross between a social news site and a micropayment donation service. You add funds to your account and “Flattr” content you find interesting. Others do the same for your content. Every month, the amount you have in our account is divided up amongst the works you’ve Flattred and you receive funds from those who have Flattred you. If you get more than you give, you can withdraw the surplus revenue.

I had agreed to test the service for at least a month to see how it went. I added the Flattr button to every article on this site (right next to the Twitter button) and kept track of the stats. Now, a little bit over 30 days later, I’m back with a report.

Outcome

My Flattr Experiment: 30 Days Later Image

Over the 30 days the experiment ran, I received some 8 Flattrs. Seven of the Flattrs were for the original post and one stray Flattr was for a previous post on Embed Anything. All totaled those eight Flattrs ended up being worth €1.19 in revenue, or about $1.55.

However, since I spent about €5 ($6.50) to set up the account, I actually lost approximately €3.8 ($4.95)over the month using Flattr. In short, I actually went into the hole slightly trying to make Flattr work.

On the other side of the coin, things weren’t much better. Despite my best attempts to find good content to Flattr. Very few sites I read ran the buttons. Only two sites I regularly visit, TechDirt and TorrentFreak, actually use the buttons. I ended up only Flattring two things, one was an article on Torrentfreak and the other was actually a test.

However, I probably would have Flattred a great deal more if I had remembered I was supposed to. Looking back over the month, there were several other stories that may have been worth a Flattr but, without seeing the buttons regularly, I simply forgot to follow up.

With Flattr, unlike tweeting and email linking, are not a part of my daily “sharing” routine, and just didn’t feel natural. It is clearly going to take a few more months of use to become more normal.

Still, the month gave me an idea of what to expect from Flattr and my conclusions are fairly mixed at this time.

Is Flattr Worthwhile?

It’s almost impossible to say anything conclusive about Flattr or the notion of micropayment donations after just one month. Not only is one month not long enough to reach any good conclusions, but the market penetration in the U.S. for Flattr is pretty weak and almost certainly will improve.

Still, it’s hard to say that the results were anything but discouraging.

Though eight Flattrs is not very bad for a service with little penetration in my home country, it only achieved a $1.50 (€1.19) in revenue and, thanks to forced participation of about $3 (€2) there wasn’t much that I could hope to do in terms of earning any money.

The bigger problem though is all the trouble I had with Flattr. I mentioned many of the problems in my first report but the month seemed to be plagued with problems with the service in general. The buttons would disappear from the site for long periods of time, would load very slowly and generally the service didn’t seem to work very well.

Since I couldn’t Flattr my content, I have no idea if these problems were preventing people from participating but it was something I noticed repeatedly when visiting this site.

But despite the problems and the fact I lost money, I’m not ready to write off Flattr just yet.

Speaking for Flattr

My friend Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff, who runs the great Copy, Shake and Paste Blog reported to me that Flattr has done very well in Germany, where she is from. There, some sites have made upwards of €500 ($650) per month, not enough to earn a living from, but certainly enough to pay even a very high hosting bill.

This seems to mesh with what I’m seeing on the Flattr site. Most of the articles listed on the site are in German (or at least what appears to be German) and the payment troubles I had when setting up my account were largely due to the site is geared toward visitors from the EU. This presence shouldn’t be a surprise given that the company is based in Sweden, but it might also explain the slowdowns and other problems I experienced.

In short, either a U.S.-based competitor to Flattr or a greater presences here in the states could help me get a great deal more out of the service and make this an experiment well worth running again.

Bottom Line

I haven’t fully decided what I’m going to do with Flattr now. I’ll likely remove it but I may leave it up for another month or two in a bid to continue the experiment. However, if it continues to slow down my site’s loading time and create other problems, it may go away well before that.

In the end, I see the potential for a service like Flattr to work and I am definitely interested in the possibility. I want to give it as fair of a shake as possible but, until it reaches greater penetration into the U.S., it probably won’t be a practical solution for me.

Still, the idea is there and even though my initial results were mixed at best, I am not ready to write it off.

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