Suppose major newspapers managed to do what many are now suggesting they do, and find a way to formally or informally collude to all charges people to read? Well, I would have Tyler Cowen’s question, too: “Won’t NPR, and NPR.org, be the big winner?”
Even more than NPR.org I think the big winner would be news.bbc.co.uk which already consistently ranks as a top-ten news website and has no reasonable motive to charge readers. Their coverage of the United States, though okay, really isn’t first rate. But for coverage of global news it’s probably already the best source out there. And the skill they show in covering the rest of the world indicates to me that they could step up their coverage of US issues if the market opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, lots of news stories are pretty “obvious” and covered in multiple outlets. Serious bloggers will probably be willing to pay a subscription fee in order to read a high-quality website (certainly I would pay for the New York Times) but when possible I would link to a free site’s coverage of a big news story.