I’ve been yakking (here and here) about how bloggers are frequently offered “exposure” instead of money for their work. What “exposure” really means, of course, is “We could help you become famous.” Hard for the average human to resist. Very hard. But exposure doesn’t buy the groceries (at least not in the immediate). So we need to figure out a way to get cash into bloggers’ pockets, especially if the sites they’re blogging for can’t or won’t pay them.
Another part of the equation is the readers, who are very free with their likes (easy to be generous when it costs you nothing), but likes don’t pay the rent any more than exposure does.
Speaking of readers, permit me to draw your attention to Flattr, which I affectionately refer to as “likes with balls.” It’s a revolutionary idea, though most people don’t seem to have grasped that just yet. (Or maybe they have, and they’re just selfish and lazy. Or maybe they’ve lost their jobs and homes and are living in their vans and eating uncooked Top Ramens every day. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.)
With Flattr, content creators add buttons to their sites and/or individual posts (there’s one at the bottom of this post). When you, the reader, click a Flattr button, the creator of the content you just enjoyed gets cash. Real money!
Where does this money come from, you ask? Well, initially, you put it into an account. Then you tell Flattr how much of it you want to spend each month. If you’ve specified a budget of €3 a month, and you Flattr one blog in a month, that blogger gets €3 (minus a minuscule fee). If you Flattr two blogs, those two bloggers get €1.50 each. Get it? If you Flattr nothing, your money goes to charity.
If you put Flattr buttons on your own site(s), then, theoretically, your account could just be filled up with money from Flattrs others have given you, and you wouldn’t have to put more money in. You could even withdraw extra money and buy ramen with it.
Flattr can only work if enough people are doing it, of course. It’s caught on in Germany, I hear.
So what does Flattr have to do with group blogs that don’t pay their bloggers (like The Huffington Post)?
Well, Flattr is in a good position to do something to change the situation. It would be super cool if Flattr could develop a system whereby Flattrs on individual posts on a group blog directed the payment to the specific bloggers’ accounts rather than to the main site. (Chances are sites would want to share Flattr revenue. This could be an option, and the site owners could be allowed to configure the split themselves.)
[Aug. 8: Vincent saw a tweet go by that said the Flattr WordPress plugin supports multiple users. Great minds, right?]
You can go to the Flattr site and look for people who are using Flattr (keyword search). I discovered Mimi and Eunice (the cartoon above) on the Flattr blog today. I found a poet I really like searching Flattr for “prose poetry” a few months ago.
What exposure really gets you
I was whining to a (non-blogger) friend and colleague about blogsploitation the other day, and she asked me if what I had gained from blogging for free had been worth it. I had to admit that it had. It’s opened a lot of doors. I’ve had press passes to pricey events I couldn’t have attended otherwise. These events provided material about which I wrote and for which I (sometimes) got paid, and lots of contacts. It’s helped me put together a significant professional network here in Paris and online, which has led in turn to more paid work. Having content on major blogs that I could point people to has gotten me some very interesting and lucrative projects. So maybe the exposure myth is not all myth.
In fact, in between the first and second of my blogsploitation posts, another friend and colleague, who was about to be hired as a blog editor, asked me if I’d be interested in blogging for her. The site? HuffPo.
I have to confess I’ll probably do it. I’m only human. And you never know what it could lead to…
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes. -Walt Whitman