Here’s the interview that we promised yesterday regarding IndieKarma, the new kid on the micropayments block. With any luck, some of the concerns in yesterday’s comments section may be addressed here by IndieKarma honcho Brad Patterson, and we’ll have analysis on IndieKarma’s service tomorrow. Play nice, kids!
Patterson: I’m the founder, and I run the show on day-to-day basis.
Fleen: What are the plans for IndieKarma?
Patterson: We launched a week ago, and right now we have no idea what to expect in terms of growth, or the behavior of that growth. We intended to initially go site-to-site, looking to sign up groups of sites that are related and have common traffic — like webcomics collectives. Since Jason Kottke linked us last Friday, signups have actually been quicker than would have liked; right now we’re going try to continue to focus, digest the traffic spikes, and continue an active development cycle. Expect IndieKarma 2.0 in two to four weeks.
As a result of the unexpected rush, I don’t know if we’re in a position to actively solicit people to sign up with us yet, but we will get there. Originally we were aiming for blog market, but the more we looked at it, the more it seems we’re better suited to the comics/independent creator area. That is, sites with a strong connection between reader and content provider, where the reader comes back repeatedly for that content because they enjoy it. Right now, we’re excited to get our first handful of customers in webcomics.
Fleen: Okay, what blogs and comics have signed up? [Note: At the time of the interview, the IndieKarma website recorded about 130 websites and 340 users; as of this writing, the numbers stand at 199 websites and 443 users]
Fleen: Webcomics have a history of being excitable when it comes to micropayments.
Patterson: Since webcomics weren’t our original focus, we don’t know as much about them as we want to. We’re unfamiliar with who the main players are, but we’re learning. We want to remain a neutral party in the philosophical arguments about micropayments; we think it can work, we’d like to help out creators with a new source of revenue.
Fleen: Is the contribution amount configurable?
Patterson: The plan over next week or two is to have it configured by the individual user — they’re going to be able to say, “Here are the sites I visit that use the system, I’m willing to give more to these particular sites.” Or, “In the future, these sites that use IndieKarma and I don’t like, I don’t want to give any money to them.” The user can configure their profile to control their giving.
Fleen: How are users tracked as having been to an IndieKarma site?
Patterson: It’s a browser cookie, which expires in an hour, but I’ll have to verify the details with the programmer.
Fleen: What’s the dispute-resolution mechanism?
Patterson: The user agreements are held over from our previous company, PixelPass (which featured transaction amounts of a dollar [US], and used a different model — obscured content, unlocked by payment). But given the amount of a contribution, we don’t think that anybody will be too upset if they give a penny that they didn’t mean to.
But even a penny an hour adds up. We’re assuming that sites like blogs and comics are essentially consumed in a page view — you come by, get today’s update, you aren’t really clicking around all the links. At a penny per page view, you’re talking about US$10 CPM [note: cost per 1000 impressions; term used by on-line advertisers to determine rates].
Fleen: Can the user configure the contribution interval? For example, if a webcomic has an active forum, the user might visit repeatedly during the day.
Patterson: We hadn’t thought of that. I don’t see why not, it would be a natural extension of the configuration we have in mind.
Fleen: Is PayPal the only option for funding an IndieKarma account?
Patterson: You can also use a credit card, but the minimum amount to add to the account goes up to US$5.00 because of processing charges.
Fleen: How do recipients get their payments? What threshold triggers a payment, and what form do they get paid in?
Patterson: Payment is by PayPal transfer; over some arbitrary amount (US$100), we’ll send a check instead. Payment to a website is by request, with a US$5.00 minimum; we’re not advertising, so we don’t have to make them wait 60 days while we wait for somebody else to pay us. If they make a bunch of money on the first day, we can transfer it immediately.
Fleen: How is IndieKarma going to make its money? Will there be fees, or will you be working off of a float from the accounts?
Patterson: Of every dollar that gets earmarked for a creator, PayPal is going to take 10 cents for themselves. IndieKarma is going to get 15 cents for facilitating the system. That leaves 75 cents for the creator, which they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Fleen: What’s your marketing plan and budget? Are you going to be able to develop this service widely?
Patteron: We’re still figuring out the plan as we go. The budget is undisclosed, and we’re self-financed.
Fleen: Do you really think there are enough kind souls that will use this to make it worthwhile?
Patterson: Yes. These days, readerships are now sufficiently educated to understand that content providers aren’t necessarily making it financially, or doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. We figure a lot of readers wouldn’t mind supporting the whole process. Hopefully, it could lead to less advertising on sites, and that would be a great thing. One thing we have been playing around with is a ability for a site to remove advertising [from the page delivered] if a reader is paying a penny; there all sorts of things we’d like for the provider to be able to do if the user pays a penny. These are all development things that we’ll really start to explore in the next month or so.
Fleen: How do you plan to get people to refill their accounts after the novelty has worn off?
Patterson: We’re going to find out. We don’t know yet. There is a customizable banner [that identifies IndieKarma sites, at the bottom of the page] that’s configurable by the content provider; there’s an ability for the provider to communicate the campaign … they could make it larger and more annoying if they wanted. They could put in characters or a miniature comic that reminds people that they can be supported with IndieKarma. This is a new business, a new idea, and we’re going to continue to solve it.
Something that we’ll definitely do over the next month is generate a listing of supporters of a particular site, in the penny amounts that have been donated to that particular site. We’ll allow the end user to perhaps leave a bit of text, link back to wherever, so it’s almost a way for the end users to get a sense of who the other end users are. It’ll allow them to give more, if they want to be seen as a public supporter of that content. They can of course remain anonymous if they prefer to.
That’s it for today. Join us tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.