Jeff Jarvis has a great post on his blog, Buzz Machine, about the death of TimesSelect, the now defunct pay service of the New York Times. He makes several great points as to why it was a doomed idea from the get-go to put a pay wall around their columnists and other content deemed "premium." He points out, "There is no end of free competition. The value is fleeting in time. The cost of charging is too high."
But the real kicker for me is the lesson that we can draw across all internet media: music, video, news, opinion, etc. The lesson, as we have mentioned countless times, is that the value of social media is the creation and advancement of relationships. Jarvis puts it this way: "It’s the relationship that’s valuable. It’s the relationship that is profitable, not the control of the content or distribution. That is the essential media moral of the internet story. It has taken 13 years of internet history for media companies to learn that, to give up the idea that they control something scarce that they can charge consumers for, but they’ve finally learned it."
This is not to suggest that there is NOTHING worth paying for online. But you need to pick your spots.