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This holiday season, many people will get into the spirit of giving by donating to charities. But generous South Floridians have another option -- The Miami Herald. The region's paper of record has been hit hard by cutbacks, layoffs, and revenue declines facing most of the newspaper industry, and it has started posting a link at the bottom of each story, saying, "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." Can asking readers for spare change help save newspapers?
Don't laugh -- donations might help: "The Miami Herald is taking a page out of Wikipedia's playbook," says Danny Shea in The Huffington Post. The online, user-updated encyclopedia is run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, and every year it gets a financial shot in the arm from an "appeal for readers to donate for the free service." Last year's campaign raised $3 million over 10 days.
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Anything's better than forcing online readers to pay: It's clear the paper is willing to try anything to "get consumers to pay for online content," says Kyle Munzenrieder in Miami New Times. The paper already pulls many articles after about two weeks, then charges for access to its archives. The good news is that The Miami Herald insists it has no plans to start charging all its online readers.
This could be a step toward getting readers to pay: Paywalls are a hot topic in the newspaper industry, says Jennifer Lush in Editorsweblog.org. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been insisting recently that charging for online content is key to saving newspapers. "The Miami Herald has not yet taken the plunge," but asking for donations could "soften the eventual paywall blow" by making readers more aware of the industry's "fragile financial state."
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