A Harris research poll commissioned by paidContent:UK found that 5% of respondents think they would pay for news online, with the vast majority saying that instead they would simply go to an alternative free site.
If the 5% panned out in practice (and surveys are notoriously bad predictors of buying behaviour, so there is considerable downside risk to this figure) then a back of the envelope calculation shows that even with a fairly modest charge of £3-5 per month the subscription revenues gained are likely to significantly exceed the ad revenues lost from the 95% who decide to go elsewhere, so there is some good news in this figure.
The bad news, however, is that these revenues won’t add up to much of a total when compared with traditional hardcopy paper sales.
So we are looking at another story of the transition to digital shrinking an industry.
The only option I can see on the table for newspapers to mitigate this development is to build vibrant communities around their properties (as I have said before). The catch, though, is that it is prohibitively hard to build a community whilst charging for content.