Hard-Up Miami Herald Virtually Begs for Charity Micropayments

miami herald

Ruh-roh...this sounds like a very sour note at the end of a year that's seen many traditional newspapers and magazines hit trouble: The Miami Herald is so strapped for cash it's soliciting charitable Web donations on a per-story basis.

Obviously the paper isn't completely out of cash as it's operations are ongoing after layoffs and cutbacks, but its management has seen the writing on the wall, er, the Web, and knows that its income from sales of the print version is likely to dip lower. Hence the request to spend a little cash supporting the paper's future—which is exactly how it's being spun by the Herald on its donations page.

"If you value The Miami Herald's local news reporting and investigations, but prefer the convenience of the Internet, please consider a voluntary payment for the Web news that matters to you," runs the plea, and it's charming for its absolute honesty. To that end it might actually work, as readers who click on the "Support ongoing news coverage" button at the bottom of each post may be tempted to tap in their credit card data to hand over a dollar or two.

miami heraldThe paper sees this as an experiment, and there're no plans to erect a pay wall for paid content. But the most attractive part of the experiment, from the publishing world point of view, is that it's a totally different payment model to the Berlin Wall closed-access payment systems that Rupert Murdoch and his Net-fearing cronies would love to fence their content off with. It's even simpler than the bonus content "member's clubs" that some publishers are proposing.

And it's got a precedent on the Internet. Because of systems like donationware (where users can get a 100% working bit of software, and send however much money they think it's worth to the author if they like it) and even the "pay what you like" scheme that Radiohead championed with their album In Rainbows.google newspapers

[Via NBCMiami, @JimMacMillan]

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  • John Vasko

    Why can't you guys get your possessive ITS correct. There's no apostrophe. So unfortunate that this error happens so often on here and I can't imagine I'm the only one it irritates. ----- it's operations ----- should be ----- its operations -----

  • Fred Dewey

    The challenge that this solution has is that people have to stop what they are doing, fill out a complex payment form, and decide how much to give, each time they want to make a micropayment. That work is a barrier that will keep all but the most committed from giving, and even those who give will not give very often (maybe only once ever).

    A much better and more sophisticated micropayment/crowdfunding model for news and online information websites is available from my company, Kachingle. Kachingle allows a person to sign up and give their paypal information once, and commit to voluntarily contribution $5 per month. Then the user selects the sites they want their money to go to, and at the end of each month, we divide their money up and give it to their websites based on how often they visited each site.

    So with Kachingle you have a very low one-time mental transaction cost which is a very simple signup (we ask for a name, email address, password and paypal email address) and you are on your way, picking the sites you love and then we do the rest. Check us out at www.Kachingle.com .

    Fred Dewey

  • Jehan Tremback

    Seems like NPR is doing pretty well in these times... For a company that survives on donations, the internet is a big boost. The big problem with a lot of these local papers is that they don't offer anything different from the same Reuters and AP stories you see duplicated over and over from different newspapers. Maybe if they focused purely on a local blog format?

  • Steve Outing

    At least the Herald is thinking (a tiny bit) out of the box, but the way they're implementing this donation strategy is crude, simplistic, and doomed to fail. I explained why and suggested better options in a blog post this week: