Two noteworthy articles about using a pay-model for the Net. First is this article from the Maui Time Weekly (reprinted in Alt Weekly) about how to solve the problems of the newspapers by pulling their material offline, copyrighting everything and killing off the wire services. At the point, Net users would be forced to pay up for papers and their services. The problem is that unless EVERY paper out there signed on (which they wouldn't because it's too risky), a project like this would be a failure- Net users would then just go to whatever news source they can find online that they like and just use that instead. The genie's outta the bottle, as they say, and trying to yank all publications offline isn't going to happen- papers have already invested too much in their online presence and are seeing their ad revenue grow online (as opposed to offline).
A saner approach comes from Christie Hefner of Playboy who suggests in this Portfolio article that an ala carte pricing menu for publications might be a solution for them, letting them offer individualized choices like iTunes does. The revenue from such an idea might not be great but if it gets users in the habit of paying for some material that they really want and getting exactly what they want from a publication, that might make them more loyal readers. While the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal were the last major hold-outs for this model, it might thrive elsewhere on a smaller scale and is at least worth a try, especially in these desperate times.
Finally, a tip of the hat to an article about one of my favorite parts of the Net which found itself sliding off the cultural map with the advent of the World Wide Web. This PC Magazine article about the death of Usenet made me think of all the times I've used newsgroups, even up to this day. It's a wonderful, specialized place to chat, gab and argue with fellow enthusiasts about any topic you could think of (of course, I favored the music ones). Luckily, the newsgroups do survive now in some form thanks to Google Groups, where you should go to check them out. By the way, you can thank the misguided NY attorney general Andrew Cuomo who decided that ALL newsgroups are evil and support kiddie porn, even though that's not true- he convinced many ISP's to stop carrying them all and effectively killed off access to newsgroups to many people. If you'd like to tell the AG what a misguided knucklehead he is, you can contact him at his website.