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The Viability of Micro-Tipping

The Viability of Micro-Tipping

I recently stumbled upon ScratchBack, one of the latest projects by Jim Kukral. ScratchBack presents itself as an online tipping system that lets your readers send you small payments for a link and several lines of text on your blog or website.

ScratchBack is an online “tipping” system. It allows you, the publisher, to accept tips and “give back” links* or images* in return.

You name your price on your tips, and you earn money from every interaction through our easy-to-use automated system. It’s free to sign-up, and you can have a TopSpot widget on your website or blog in minutes.

Think of it as a mix between text link ads and a tagboard. Readers get to post messages, but unlike a free-for-all tagboard, anyone who would like to leave a link and a message would have to pay for the space. Rates can range from anywhere as small as $1 (or less?) per link, to as high as you want. And the duration of each “message” can last for as short as a day, to a week, to a month, or until newer messages bump off the older ones.

This made me think about the viability of this as a model for blog monetization. Then it came to me. Aggregating the small stuff can lead to bigger stuff. Most of you would know of this concept already as one of the oft-used (and over-used) concepts of new media: the long tail.

More of the small stuff results in big stuff

Having dinner out yesterday evening, the family came across a small store that sells stuff for 50 cents apiece (or the equivalent in my local currency). You have all sorts of simple kids’ toys, household implements, hairbands, pens, notepads, notebooks, folders–name any cheap stuff, they have it. One would tend to think these things are so inexpensive it’s probably worth grabbing a few. And at these prices, our minds would be conditioned to think these are mostly necessities anyway, or at least stuff convenient to have around (my desk is constantly running out of good pens and notepads, for instance).

Our purchases totaled about $10, I think. So much for cheap 50-cent items.

What I mean is that if the price is low enough, consumers or buyers would consider it negligible enough that a purchase decision shouldn’t be too hard. In terms of link advertising, I would carefully weigh my options and choices, were I to pay for links or ad space somewhere in the tune of hundreds of dollars. However, I wouldn’t think twice about tipping a good blog with a buck for a few lines of text.

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Sure, I can get a free link by writing a comment on a post. But if it’s convenient enough (meaning I wouldn’t have to go through ten sign-up steps just to send that one measly dollar), then I’d probably be happy to part with a small sum. And I get that warm, fuzzy feeling of having made a fellow blogger one dollar richer.

And for a blogger, having a handful of micro-tips per day could add up to good money each month. Probably enough to pay for hosting, bandwidth, DSL bills, or perhaps a spiffy new blog theme. Hmm, micropatronage campaigns might be a good idea after all.

Of course, there are arguments against blogging for tips, which can be a hit-or miss thing (remember this experiment way back?). But then this system isn’t exactly for donations per se, since tippers get something in return. I’ve seen a lot of “tip this blogger” PayPal buttons out there and I tend to ignore them. Yes, some ask for regular subscriptions, but unless I get added value out of my tip or subscription, I probably won’t bite. So this ScratchBack system seems to be more interesting than plain ol’ tipping.

Would you try out ScratchBack? And would you think such a system would prove to be a viable means of monetizing blogs? And would you agree with me that feeling warm and fuzzy all over makes blogging worth it?

View Comments (6)
  • I think you also missed something about the system… Not only is the price lower on many sites, but because of that it almost an impulse buy.

    Impulse buys are a great addition to monetization for blogs, as they make it easy to get more advertisers, faster.

  • Hi There –

    Hey… thanks for a heads up on what looks to be a great service. We’re trying it now at, and agree that tips from readers in return for a text link are a good idea.

    I wondered what the value of this service would be, if some enterprising WordPress plugin programmer makes something comparable, where you’d have a widget to accept PayPal payments for links in the sidebar — without a 10% service fee to Scratchback? I’m thinking Scratchback programmers will have to scramble to put in some “value added” — maybe a way to have your link show up on all sites in the network?

    Yours –

  • Thanks for the write up. We’re pretty excited about the solution, and from the reaction we’re getting from users of it, and the tips it’s generating on beta soft launch… well, we just hope to be able to keep improving it.

    Look for smaller sizes coming soon, and a directory after that, plus more!

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