There is another take on the pay-versus-free online news debate from Jeff Sonderman in NewsFuturist: Essentially he says news hasn't been sold at its cost since the emergence of the penny press.
He asserts that the arrival of the penny press, and the concurrent arrival of advertising to subsidize the content, has meant marginal-cost pricing in the digital sphere makes it nearly impossible to charge.
What is marginal-cost pricing? "The price of a product in a competitive market falls to the marginal cost of creating and delivering one more unit."
In digital terms, that's nearly zero.
"Those who ignore the rule of marginal-cost pricing and try to charge users for content in a competitive market will be undercut by more efficient competitors who stick with free. They'll also face an endless fight against piracy, because economics says the product should be free and technology makes it easy to duplicate and spread."
Can some charge? Yes, he says, but only those with unique content. Otherwise others will undercut with similar content.