Here is a hard cold fact of the internet age. Any content creator whose sole business is selling their content al a carte will have a hard time surviving. In a world of unlimited digital choice, the cost of creating and marketing content that generates a profit is expensive and difficult. Which is exactly why the successful sites have been aggregators.
Its also exactly why newspapers are having a hard time making it. They sell papers 1 at a time. They sell home subscriptions one at a time. When they charge for monthly subscriptions online, they sell them one at a time. That’s a tough business.
Its not that the newspaper content is not worth it. The problem is that it requires prospective buyers to first value the content, then decide whether they want to go through the hassle of going to a newstand, calling the home delivery department of the paper, or putting in their credit card information to buy online. This may be beyond a solvable problem when much of the same content is available online for free.
On a somewhat related note, the Freakonomics blog at the NYT has a great discussion of micropayments as a means of monetizing online content:
The notion of micropayments — a pay-per-click/download web model — is hardly a new one. But as a business model it hasn’t exactly caught fire, or even generated more than an occasional spark.
Lately, however, the journalism community has become obsessed with the idea. This is what happens when an existing business model begins to collapse: alternative models are desperately invented, debated, attempted, rejected, etc.
Cory Doctorow also has plenty to say on this subject:
Let me start by saying that I like newspapers. And let me say further that, no matter how much I like them, they just might not have a future.
The Internet chews up media and spits them out again. Sometimes they get more robust. Sometimes they get more profitable. Sometimes they die.