Pennies for Our Thoughts (Cent-Up)

cent-up symbolIf you look at the bottom of this post or any post on this blog, whether on the home page or in “single post” view, you will now find a Cent-Up icon next to a counter bubble, of a familiar type, except that it counts cents, as in “pennies,” not “likes” or “hits” or other typical internet quanta. Before I go any further, however, the easiest way for you, dear reader, to make what I’m discussing clearer might be just to click on this link:

I’ll have practical details in a separate “Monetization” piece focusing on installing Cent-Up for open source WordPress, but here’s how it works in brief: After getting approved as a Cent-Up “publisher” (applicants are reviewed for possible evildoing, and somehow I passed), a blogger need only add a teensy bit of code by one of several different simple methods, and posts will automatically (by Javascript) display Cent-Up’s monetary “Like.” As for readers, after a one-time sign-up, they will be able to put their money where their eyeballs are, as little as a few cents at a time, by clicking the button wherever it appears on whoever’s site it turns up for them. Cent-Up collects the proceeds, takes 10%, and divides the rest 50-50 between the author and one of (as of this writing) “seven great charities” serving “public radio, art for people with disabilities, music education, fighting sex trafficking, breast cancer, education access, and helping impoverished women.”

The Charity Link

As for the charities themselves, Cent-Up explains its approach as follows:

To avoid diluting the power of the CentUp community, we’re going to start with a select few charities that range in focus. As CentUp grows, so will the number of non-profits that you can support. If you have a suggestion for a national non-profit that we should consider, please let us know.

The first obvious question, not to be too brutal about it, is why bother with the charities at all? Isn’t fair payment for creative work a worthy cause, too?

I first took a look at Cent-Up without thinking of charity, and, if a non-charitable Cent-Up were available, I’d have been interested in giving it a try. Yet I also think that Cent-Up’s connection to charity may help in overcoming a key impediment for previous attempts at micro-payment implementation, an idea older than the World Wide Web itself, in a benign variation on the classic confidence game: The appeal of “doing good” may encourage both user and blogger-publisher to overcome resistances, since a good reason for the former to sign up and give, and for the latter to come right out and ask, will be to help others verifiably in need.

It may be that the Cent-Uppers further hope and believe that mixing third-party charity with direct support will have a positive effect on the latter, as research on freeware and shareware distribution has sometimes shown. In other words, my willingness to give $10 to my favorite charity may spill over into a willingness to give $10 to an author, when without the charitable example I’d just have thrown her $5, if I’d bothered at all.

pencils of promiseI chose “Pencils of Promise.” You can read about it at the link. If you click my Cent-Up button, you can tell yourself you’re giving me an “attaboy” or you can tell yourself you’re helping cute kids get lurnin, or you can tell yourself you’re doing both, whichever you prefer, every time you click.

Who other than a weird ultra-Scrooge and anti-blogger could have a problem with that?

No one, fersure. Still, I wonder if over time any advantages of the charity-link will decrease, and potentially reverse: Eventually, users may see themselves as simply dividing their free and finite capital. In other words if “non-dilution” is good for Cent-Up, why isn’t it good for me?

Being forced to offer a donation to a cause chosen by someone else may remain a further marginal disincentive, no matter how attractive and worthy poor children, breast cancer victims, and public radio are as causes: I have nothing against any of Cent-Up’s pre-designated charities, but the truth is they do not happen to be causes I would immediately think of supporting, and my own resources are decidedly limited.

I’d also prefer a Cent-Up that took a smaller piece of the action for itself, under the assumption that it would someday compete with the giants of payment processing. I’d like to see Cent-Up expand its list of charities to include ecological and animal welfare causes – because Earth-alienated internetters including me are suckers for nature – and I think there are other causes that obviously would help round out their offering. I’d like to see users given the option to divide their contributions differently if they want to.

Yet I finally decided that these are quibbles, especially in relation to a small company founded in 2012 and apparently still in its infancy. The 10% that Cent-Up takes is more than Paypal takes under its business-only micro-payment option, or than Google takes for its Digital Wallet, but it’s not radically more. As for the rest, to adjust Cent-Up’s take of overall site proceeds, or the proportion that goes to charity, one easy thing to do among others would be to provide a direct donation link apart from Cent-Up’s, but proudly displayed along with it. Likewise, if I want to help out stray dogs or an anismistic mission other than my own, I can put up a badge or badges for them, too, and let the users set proportions.

Whatever I come up with for myself, I very strongly suspect that, however Cent-Up develops, its founders are not going to get rich just off my blog. I also suspect that someone someday is going to open up micropyaments for a critical mass of users, and maybe in the meantime find a way for more writers and other creators to support themselves. Among competitors Flattr, based in Sweden, has adopted a model that’s freer in some ways, more rigid in others. TinyPass, which recently absorbed the micropayment service Swishu, and which handles a range of content-dripping and paywalling services (including for blogging superstar Andrew Sullivan as well as for larger sites), also has a chance to take the space over. There are, as already noted, huge-footed others that have also been eyeing the niche from the other direction.

So, give in already…

Since I think Cent-Up at least has its heart in the right place, I’m happy to give it my micro-help, and I urge you to offer it yours: Cent-Up gives you 100 Cents to start with – Free Money! It expects you later to replenish the account in $10 increments if you want to keep on using it (and it also waits for its publishers to accumulate at least $100 before disbursing anything to them), but it doesn’t cost anything to check it out…

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    2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Pennies for Our Thoughts (Cent-Up)"
    1. […] techniques. You can threat that as a promise or a threat! In the meantime, I still think that Cent-Up is a worthy alternative, and something y’all should get in the habit of using, at least to […]

    2. […] I do not aim at this blog for quantity over quality. I will remove comments that I deem offensive or insulting, or that I find indistinguishable from “comment spam” (which often takes the form of praise, usually garbled and generic), though I do I regret that more visitors – whose numbers I track via site statistics – do not pause to offer their thoughts even briefly, or to email them to me if too shy to comment in the threads. I am grateful to the visitors who, sometimes without commenting or explaining themselves, have given donations (though I’m beginning to wonder whether you all will ever start Cent-Upping). […]

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