Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Will The Herald survive in 2009?

A day after The Herald quietly raised the single copy price of the paper, I found myself in downtown Miami near the Miami-Dade Government Center.

Directly in front of the Metro Rail entrance and a block away on Flagler street were two Miami Herald promotional kiosks loaded with stacks of the Herald and el Nuevo Herald. The kiosks were also brimming with Miami Hurricane and Miami Dolphin t-shirts.

The men at the kiosks were buttonholing passersby, handing out free copies of the paper and at the same time trying to sell subscriptions to the paper. I guess if you bought a subscription to the paper you got a free t-shirt.

I didn't hang around long enough to find out.

I'm not sure a hundred kiosks at every corner along Flagler Street from Miami Avenue to Sweetwater could sell enough subscriptions to salvage what's left of the Herald. It's hard to imagine anyone in South Florida slapping themselves in the forehead and saying "Yeah, today's a good subscribe to the Herald," no matter how many free t-shirts are offered as a premium.

The Herald's circulation is steadily declining. To be fair, the price increase is the first in 18 years. But you don't need a PhD in economics to figure out what a price increase now is going to do to already sagging circulation numbers.

All three South Florida papers are going through hard times but things are especially bad at the Herald.

Massive staff reductions, declining circulation and ad revenue have taken a toll on what was once the largest and most influential paper in the state.

The Herald's parent company McClatchy is saddled with massive debt and its stock is selling for somewhere in the buck-a-share range. And reports say McClatchy wants to unload the Herald

One financial writer predicts that won't happen.
"The Herald won't be sold. There is too much risk here for a buyer. The most likely fate of the paper is that it will be merged with the Ft. Lauderdale paper or some other media in south Florida."
Expect big changes on the South Florida media horizon in the next 12 months.

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