Would you donate money to a for-profit radio station?

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that "With radio-advertising revenue down 9% last year and on track for a dismal 2009, some commercial stations are borrowing a tactic from public radio: asking listeners for donations."

Air America, the liberal talk radio network with hosts including Rachel Maddow and Montel Williams, is considering asking its listeners to voluntarily send cash, and other regional networks have already taken the plunge.

Will it work? Probably, at least to some extent: It doesn't cost much to set up a PayPal account and have the deejays ask listeners to log-on to the website and send money. The risk is that it will turn off the listeners who don't send money but if it's done in a low-key way, it's probably a pretty safe thing to do.

Here's the thing: if radio stations are going to combat declining ad revenues by soliciting donations from their faithful listeners, why not just cut costs dramatically and go online-exclusive? And why just radio stations? They're not the only who are struggling. Why couldn't banks and car companies start begging for public support too? Oh wait...they already are, aren't they?

But the whole "Beg your customers for money" concept still has much further to go. Real estate agents are having a tough time right now: Why not just ask sellers to toss in a few thousand bucks at closing? Golf clubs aren't selling real well either, so maybe Golf Galaxy should ask its customers to pay $500 for an $80 putter. And people are used to tipping the waiter when they eat at Applebee's, but the company debt load has it struggling: Why not tip the stockholders?
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