A new study examines the impact of online content on the market for news. Surprisingly, things seem to be going pretty well:
Assuming that substitution patterns for newspapers in the Washington DC market are broadly representative of substitution patterns elsewhere, the advent of online newspapers does not appear to threaten the survival of print media. …The welfare benefits of the online newspaper appear to outweigh its costs. Consumers gain $45 million a year from free provision of the online paper, and although the firm appeared to suffer a net loss during the 2000-2003 period, an improved advertising market means that the current annual effect on firm profits is probably positive.
The author flirts with the idea of charging for online content, but notes that though firms "could have increased profits by charging a positive price for online content" in the 2000-2003 era, "the potential gain is virtually eliminated at current advertising levels, and would disappear with a small transaction cost of online payments."
The study looks at the dynamics between the Washington Post, the Washington TImes, and washingtonpost.com, but as far as I'm concerned, the real take-home lesson here is: Free TimesSelect!