Yes, it is that bad.
At the bottom of every article, the Herald's logo is followed by a "Support ongoing news coverage on MiamiHerald.com" link. Readers are then encouraged to tap their credit card for donations: "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."
Online media has officially come full circle, hasn't it? Newspapers are now running their sites with the mind-set of a basement blogger.
Allow me to be the first to burst McClatchy's bubble in saying that its panhandling efforts will be wasted. These virtual tip jars rarely work. Wikipedia has been successful in soliciting reader donations, but it's clearly positioned as a nonprofit site that refuses to advertise on its pages. Strumming away in front of an open guitar case won't work for McClatchy.
The move is certainly peculiar timing on McClatchy's part. The company has axed hundreds of Miami Herald employees in recent years. McClatchy also excited investors earlier this month when it announced that its operating cash flow was improving in the current quarter, as it slashed cash operating expenses even more aggressively than its ad and subscription revenue slid.
Online advertising is gradually bouncing back, but we're not exactly there yet. Even the mighty Google
New York Times
McClatchy just needs to be patient enough to wait for online ad rates to recover, and clever enough to maximize its online monetization. A tip jar isn't the solution. Going the News Corp.
Right now, the call for donations appears to be a humbling attempt to create incremental revenue. In an ideal scenario, my fellow Miamians will tap into their inner George Baileys and bail out the newspaper as a community, digging deep into their pockets for virtual coin. Unfortunately, the moment you open yourself up to charity, you're on a slippery slope.
Stay afloat, MiamiHerald.com, but do it the right way.
How would you save the newspaper industry? Submit your lifelines in the comment box below, and I'll be back next week to discuss some of the suggestions.