After my post this past weekend about why I think paying for access to local news reporting is worth it, I checked out some of the reasons that people who were complaining about said fees were giving for not wanting to pay. Chief among them was the argument that "if it's on the Internet, it should be free!"
I hadn't previously thought about how mainstream that line of thinking probably is right now. But it makes sense. The dominant business model for so many Internet resources over the last several years has been to give away access to tools, content or other things and then either sell advertising or sell a "premium" version (Wired magazine had a good story on this trend back in February of 2008 if you want to see how much it's taken hold even in that short time).
People are used to learning of some new service or app, putting in their e-mail address and picking a password (if that much), and they're off and running to use the shiny new thing. Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Google let users spend all day using up their resources at no charge. You can download high quality web browsers and entire office software suites for free. Pandora lets you listen to and discover great music all day long for free. There are paid apps in mobile app stores, but the free or $0.99 ones get most of the attention.