The Internet's original promise as an open marketplace of ideas keeps eroding.
After online advertising's failure to overcome the collapse of print advertising, media web sites are now turning to paid-content models.
More and more free web sites charge for subscriptions. The latest to make the transition are New York magazine, and Charlie Pierce's political blog on Esquire.
The sites hope to follow The New York Times and Washington Post's soaring profitability from paid online subscriptions during the Trump administration. The Wall Street Journal's business-oriented subscription site has also been lucrative, while the success of the Athletic's subscription sports site boosts expectations that readers will pay for specialized material.
In recent years, most major newspapers and an increasing number of magazines have set up content "paywalls."
Now, it's more and more difficult to read a variety of newspapers and magazines without acquiring a number of subscriptions. The original unfettered glory of the Internet is dimming.
Meanwhile, as Facebook struggles with a wave of bad publicity, Amazon is taking a bigger bite of the online advertising market, threatening longtime leader Google, according to a recent WSJ article. (Why does the WSJ best The New York Times in giving news no one else has? The Times each morning echoes what cable news had the night before.)
Looking back, it's amazing that once wealthy and unassailable newspapers and magazines quickly lost the online ad battle in the early days of the Internet. Some newspapers, like the AJC, tried to set up paid subscriptions at the dawn of the online era, but abandoned their efforts because of the dominance of free sites.
Magazines and newspapers early on could have banded together to develop their own version of Facebook. Perhaps such a news aggregate site will emerge now, offering access to several newspapers and magazines for a single subscription price.
As the online subscription market grows more and more crowded, Web sites will face tougher competition in drawing readers. Those long accustomed to free content will be unwilling to pay for material, especially when a range of free sites remain.
While the new Internet paradigm shimmers with promise, it might be another disappointment for media companies.