The next time you visit TheWayoftheWeb, you may notice a slight change to the site. Following the decision by Google to shutter Google Friend Connect, that widget will have disappeared, along with the 82 lovely people who chose to support the site via that method.
Obviously since the launch of Google+, and the focus that it now has within the company, it was fairly obvious that Friend Connect would no longer be supported (Incidentally, you have the choice of following me on Google+, or TheWayoftheWeb Google+ page). And I’ve already included the Google+ icon in the sidebar to hopefully allow the site to benefit from direct search and anything else Google decides to roll out.
The loss of Friend Connect doesn’t bug me as it did when Google killed the useful and effective social features of Google Reader – Friend Connect hasn’t really ever done very much since it launched in 2008. But it’s reinforced my perception of how Google views social connections, and how that differs from Facebook and Twitter. There doesn’t appear to be any information on how I could transfer or suggest to Friend Connect followers that they should migrate to Google+, or a confirmed date for when Friend Connect ends. And it feels as if Google still sees connections as just relationships between organised information nodes which will reform as needed.
Whereas I can’t imagine Facebook or Twitter would necessarily remove a social connection features without providing some way to switch – for instance, the move to allow subscriptions to the profile of an individual didn’t mean that they just deleted any Facebook page for an individual overnight. As much as you can deride Facebook for obscuring and messing with privacy, they do seem to understand that people take time to move, and some people will intend to do something and forget for a few days, or not get around to it. Whereas Google don’t seem fussed that I have no way to contact my former followers or friend connections should I not immediately figure out how to get them to move across. Or that I have no way of knowing whether some of them will want to follow everything I post on Google+, or would want a filtered circle of some kind?
So what’s being added to the sidebar?
Instead of Friend Connect, or reducing the sidebar to allow my site to load slightly more quickly, I’m conforming to blogging stereotypes and immediately filling the space with something else. But it’s something a little different, as I’ve finally got around to signing up for Flattr. It’s been around for some time as a micropayment system for bloggers and other projects, which allows you to ‘flattr’ a site with a small donation if you like what people do.
I don’t imagine most of you will donate, and that’s fine, but the option is there if you feel so inclined. And I’m interested to see what happens with it, as a potential way of rewarding content creation which has existed for a while but so far hasn’t necessarily grabbed mainstream traction in the same way as something like Kickstarter has done.
I’m also installing it in support of their plan to make November 29th, ‘Pay a Blogger Day‘. It’s slightly self-promotional, but also hopefully helps to raise the question of how bloggers and other content providers support themselves in the minds of more readers and subscribers.
Cash and blogging:
Definitely worthy of a follow-up post, but put simply, the mainstream media model of advertising-supported publishing doesn’t work for the majority of people to make a living by blogging. The amount of inventory available and the resulting low advertising rates requires hundreds of thousands or millions of readers to be your sole source of income (Although as you rise through the stages, you will probably find the available networks open up a bit and you do get a higher ad rate as a result).
Most bloggers also attempt to make money via affiliate links, but again, you need a decent amount of traffic, and you also need a decent conversion rate to make these worthwhile. And although that works in some areas, and with writers who are also natural salespeople, it isn’t going to work for everyone.
So then you come to using content as a driver for an actual business – selling information products, consultancy or whatever else you might think of. In my case, the money I make from this blog is tiny, but it’s vitally important in helping me secure consultancy and freelance work in content and digital marketing.
But again, not everyone wants to be a consultant or spend their time trying to hawk their latest eBook – it works for a certain number of bloggers, fails for a certain number, and some don’t want to go down that road.
So Flattr is the most sustained attempt at providing an alternative. A previous attempt was made by Scratchback, which closed a while ago, and which is actually deleting user accounts this month, in a strange coincidence.
So please do support the site via its new home on Google+ (Or the old ones on Twitter and Facebook), and do think about whether you might want to reward your favourite bloggers (I don’t necessarily have to be one of them!) in a more direct way via something like Flattr.