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Free for how long?

I'm sitting at the Society for New Communications Research symposium (with Mendo) listening to Paul Gillin's keynote. He's discussing how the new model of influence and publishing created by blogs and other social media is threatening to destroy the newspaper industry. One of the underlying tenets to this is that the economics of new media (free content, easy/fast syndication and small staffs) make it impossible for traditional publishers to compete.

If things continue the way they are now, there's little question that Paul is right. But the thought occurs to me that at some point, everybody likes to get paid. And AdSense can only take you so far. Aren't bloggers human? Isn't the natural inclination for the more popular bloggers or sites (let's say Scoble or Digg) to say "Hey, I'm really popular. I've got a loyal community and high traffic. Surely, a nominal monthly subscription fee wouldn't chase too many of them away."

This line of thinking obviously runs counter to the nature of social media. But it is directly in line with human nature. This makes the social media/citizen journalist/consumer-driven marketing model we know today unsustainable.

How will it need to change to address the fact that some individuals are more equal than others?


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