Saturday, July 16, 2011
Flattry gets you everywhere posted by Richard SeymourI suppose amid this crisis of the Murdoch empire, which reflects a deeper crisis in the print media more generally, it's important to start thinking about alternative funding models. Four months ago, I tapped readers for tips on Paypal, and was relieved and gratified by dozens of generous responses. But I was also urged to get with the programme, learn how to use the internet, and sign up to alternatives to Paypal. In part, this was to facilitate regular small payments - which I have to admit would be extremely useful - and in part to allow Paypal boycotters to spare me a dime. One of the systems I was urged to try out was Flattr.
The deal with Flattr is best explained by Dan Hind:
Flattr is a micro-payments system that allows its users to give small sums of money to bloggers, musicians, free software authors, and anyone else whose work they value. You create an account and distribute a minimum of two euros per month (less a 10% commission taken by Flattr) to sites you value. The money is divided equally among all the sites you flattr in a given month. You can also opt to give individual sites more. If you don’t flattr anyone your monthly sum goes to charity.
Now the system is by no means perfect. It depends on large numbers of people signing up, of course. And so there is a danger that it will seek to secure monopoly rents if and when it becomes the standard means to delivering micro-payments. Furthermore, the commission is at the moment quite steep, though the company assures us that they will endeavour to bring it down as the volume increases.
But it strikes me to be a promising approach to solving a real problem: how do we create an internet ecology that supports independent producers? This is a serious and highly consequential issue in political writing, where large corporations and wealthy individuals have traditionally subsidised content creation.
Much of this money has come in the form of advertising – this gives rich companies important leverage in their relationship with the media they support....
Rich individuals and institutions also spend money with the express intention of creating and maintaining a favourable climate of opinion. Think tanks, foundations, and individuals receive all manner of direct and indirect support from the powerful. And the powerful expect their money to be put to good use. They want to see it being translated into media coverage that suits them. The large foundations created by American industrialists, for example, have supported academics and groups in civil society that accepted the essential soundness of the existing political and economic settlement. This in turn has been crucial in establishing the limits of responsible reform. This amounts to promoting what one of their critics, Donald Fischer, once called ‘an ideology of sophisticated conservatism’.
The state, too, spends considerable sums in order to influence the ways in which it is perceived. The Pentagon alone manages a vast public relations budget, which it uses to establish leverage over myriad media outlets, from Hollywood movie producers to newspaper journalists and broadcasters.
So both market forces and the direct intervention of wealthy patrons – patrons which include the state – skew media coverage in important, though rarely discussed, ways.
This needs to change.
Emphasis added. Flattr itself is not a panacea, it appears to have some disadvantages relative to Paypal, and I have reservations about the model of an 'internet ecology'. However, it would be foolish not to experiment with systems like this. The Left will never have as much wealth and power as its opponents, short of some revolutionary outrage, but it can maximise its use of resources. There will be numerous ways in which funding systems for left-wing online publishing can be coordinated, but as yet we're probably pretty slow in even beginning the process of searching for sustainable funding models. So, I'm giving Flattr a try. If you feel like supporting me, and don't like Paypal, then simply click on the Flattr button beneath any particular post and donate that way.