I started using Flattr roughly at the same time I started using Patreon and have used the two side-by-side for several months. Here’s how it went:

How they work

Both platforms have drastically different philosophies so let’s quickly review how they work.

The Flattr way

With Flattr, you set a monthly allowance to be distributed among your favorite content creators. The service integrates with your social media accounts, automating the distribution of that money.

Flattr also can be used to support any kind of creation, from video, music, blogs and open source software. It accept creators of all creeds; not just artists.

Flattr doesn't automatically charges you; you have to refill your account every once in a while.

The Patreon way

Patreon requires content creators to campaign for your support. You then select the level of support you want to provide and the corresponding level of perks you will enjoy in return.

At the end of every month, your credit card gets charged for the total amount pledged to all the artists you support.

My experience as supporter with Flattr

The first impressions with Flattr weren't great and it had a lot to do with how money was handled. One of the first order of business is to commit some money up front… I then found out that transactions are handled in Euros, and amounts can only be picked from a list of preset increments. These presets also prevented me from putting just enough money to try the service for a single month on a minimal budget; I had to pay my first 3 months right from the start.

I couldn’t just dip my toes; I had to plunge…

Once the unpleasant financial details in place, however, I really liked the social media integration. I had nothing special to do and my usual activities were translated into donations automatically. The process was very natural and unintrusive. All the creators had to do to get a contribution from me was to set an account and to keep producing the content I already knew and liked them for. It also only rewarded content I explicitly liked.

That positive vibe didn’t last however: I found out that from all the content creators I follow online, very few had a Flattr account. As a result, only a fraction of my “likes” could be translated into Flattrs (Flattr’s term for a donation). Some platforms were also not integrated and some creations were much harder to Flattr than others.

Creators with an abundant output are also favored with this system. Flattrs are attributed piece by piece and each Flattrs you send is of equal value. So if you send 20 Flattrs on a monthly budget of 3£, each Flattr ends up valued at 0.15£. If your Flattrs spans mediums with different production times (for instance, Instagram photos typically take a lot less time to put together than open source software), it’s easy to end up with inequities.

My experience as a patron with Patreon

In contrast, the onboarding experience with Patreon went much smoother. No money is exchanged the 1st day (although, financial information is) and your money doesn't stay idle in your account, waiting to be distributed.

There are two basic contribution types: monthly (e.g. 3$/month) and per piece (e.g. 3$/illustration). As a patron, you don't really have a say on what you pay for or don't. If you support someone on a per-piece basis, they're paid no matter if you liked it or not. So you end up supporting a person you like and the sum of its work rather than supporting that person's work on its own merits.

With the Patreon model, the creator has to sell his/her program to its audience and that can color the relationship if handled poorly. Some time also has to be set aside to provide additional perks for patrons like managing patrons-only material and activities.

Not everyone on Patreon offers perks to their patrons however and in my view, this option is vital. We like creators for their craft after all and pulling them away from that for too long would be detrimental for everybody. I’m more at ease with a creator offering little or even no perks at first than someone who offers extensive, potentially time-consuming, perks right from the get go.

The outcome (for me)

I much preferred the dynamic with Flattr: the automated nature of the process meant that in some cases, I didn’t even have to know a creator was asking for support. They could just create and be paid for their creations no matter their ability to sell their stuff.

If I liked someone’s work, they received a share. It’s that simple.

In the end however, Flattr only allowed me to reach a fraction of the creators I wished to support and my donations often didn’t end up distributed the way I really wanted. I had to follow the creators I liked where they turned up, and more often than not, they turned to Patreon.

I have the feeling that there were too few of us on Flattr to really make a difference in the creators’ lives. Most comments I could find on the platform written from creators’ perspectives definitely supported that impression.

So after months of participation, I decided let my Flattr balance sit at zero for a while and maybe revisit in a year.

Want to read more on the topic?

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