The New York Times recently announced that it will start charging for online access in 2011. My friends have been weighing the pros and cons of digital readers, dealing with bulky newspapers while commuting, and the amount of articles they'd be reading before having to pay.
I feel that train commuters are likely to be among the first to take advantage of portable e-readers like the Kindle that are finally maturing. Print advertising revenues have plummeted thanks to CraigsList, Amazon.com, and eBay, so traditional newspapers and magazines have suffered financially in the past several years.
However, the move to subscription-based journalistic content has been fairly gradual, and there's likely to be resistance from readers accustomed to free articles for their RSS feeds. Also, it hasn't yet been proven that battery-powered devices are that much more friendly to the environment than recyclable newsprint. The popularity of microblogs on Twitter and short, text-based mobile updates may be transient as smartphones like the iPhone gain full Web-display capabilities.
As part of my career in the news industry, I've been following these developments closely for the past decade or so and attended many professional conference sessions on the topic. Computerworld still has a biweekly print magazine, but TechTarget, my current employer, is online only and maintains numerous specialized Web sites for business IT audiences.
Progress is inevitable; let's just hope that news organizations reinvest in the staffers needed to produce in-depth, objective content to help citizens and organizations make informed decisions!