After a long period of not having time to actually write anything for this, I recently got hte chance to write an opinion piece for our industry mag, "Media Week".
The subject was sparked off by an article by Rupert Murdoch talking about the fact that free content will not endure.
My edited opinion is below. Wrote it in about three hours so it doesn't detail everything I wanted to.
Essentially I think charging is unavoidable for most news sites. I think the bit they add value to are the opinion sections rather than the news sections (many people write news, few people write opinion that people agree with).
The future news site will select relevant news stories from various sources and then add in their own opinion. You'll have to pay to see the opinion but the selection \ filtering will be free.
That's what I think anyway. Grand writing here:
Looking at newspapers' current print-focused businesses, it's almost enough to cheer bankers up.
Their traditional market is drying up, attacked from the internet, the BBC, TV and freesheets. The inescapable problem is that papers make as much from the cover price than from advertising. But there's simply not enough money to support the number of online news sites.
Fantasy football or crosswords do not provide sufficient money either. Charging will come about or the number of news sources will have to reduce significantly. Charging users will be painful and needs a good micro-payment system, which doesn't yet exist.
If an easy way of paying a couple of pence per article can be implemented, then charging will happen successfully. Subscription will be a struggle, but giving users options is always the sensible way to run.