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I happened to run upon an article in today's edition of "Editor and Publisher" which reported that the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper (SFGate.com is the Chronicle website) was planning more layoffs after Labor Day. It may not happen, let's pray not, but staff reductions could come as soon as next week.
Apparently, even after the last round of job cuts about two months ago or so, the newspaper is still losing $1 million a week or about $4 million a month, or a whopping $48 million-a-year loss.
That's really, really sad news as a paper is nothing without the personalities who made it, but I think there's something that can be done to at least save some jobs and stem the tide of revenue losses.
There are as of this writing 2,780,000 pages that make up SFGate.com. My idea is simple: add a donate button to each one of them.
The button would be at the top left of each page. A person could donate as little as $1 and as much as $1,000, but let's say the average donation was $2.
SFGate.com draws about 9 million monthly unique visitors according to this press release issued earlier this year. That comes down to about 290,000 unique visitors a day.
Let's say that just 30,000 people or about 10 percent of the daily visitor count posted a donation of $2 each. (in the video I mistakenly said 180,000 visitors and 10 percent. That's wrong.) Over the course of a month that could be as much as $1.86 million per month in revenue. That's almost cuts the $4 million deficit in half and helps maintain newspaper staff.
That's really it; the idea's that simple.
Donation is better than news pay
I'm not a fan of the idea of charging for news, as Hearst Corporation is considering of late. It invites a process where one website can feed its content with news from the paysite, and then offer other sites and blog with the chance to link to their site rather than the paysite. Plus, with all of the journalists losing jobs, there are more people out there who know how to get a story and compete with the paysite.
The free news sites will always outnumber and outperform the paysites, regardless of how many big brands do that strategy.
Let people donate if they wish. But backing the effort with an aggressive marketing campaign and a well-designed donation button system will generate new revenue and help save the jobs of a lot of great people at the San Francisco Chronicle.
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