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.
The 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.