Listening to talk radio this afternoon, I heard Charles Osgood (of the Osgood Files) talk about some of the financial issues facing radio (and specifically talk radio) these days. He spoke about how radio was struggling with an issue that faces traditional news outlets: the reduction in staff due to budgetary constraints.
As part of the reasoning for these constraints, he listed the inability for traditional media outlet sources to make money over the internet for their content. As I've written about many times in the past, there have been very few traditional industries that have figured out how to maintain revenue levels once content goes digital. This has been a large part of the death knell that has sounded for newspapers.
Osgood was not necessarily lamenting a drop in staff in the printing department or ad sales, he was mostly talking about the loss of journalistic talent which drives the papers and talk radio stations.
This got me thinking about a seemingly unavoidable scenario: what happens if no paper/radio news source can figure out a way to remain a profitable business? What if all the great content that we expect from people like the New York Times is no longer available because the business model just doesn't work anymore? What price might we be paying long term, by refusing to pay short term?
My guess is that many people won't know what a good thing they have now until it's gone. I would bet that, should traditional media sources like major newspapers disappear, people would be in support (in hindsight) of paying $0.50 for their daily digital version of the paper.
The internet has done a great disservice to society in the sense that it has made everyone believe that if you get it on the internet, there was no cost to get it up there and therefore should be no cost to get it out. I fear that all digital content providers (newspapers, music publishers, reprographers) will get so beat down by people demanding something for nothing, that we will all wake up one day and realize there was indeed a very high price to be paid for that content.