One of the things I've had an interesting time trying to understand how the media works. I use to work on print publishing technologies at Apple and Microsoft, and print is a continuous slide. Going from print to online has been a painful transition for many.
Matthew Ingram on PaidContent has a post that points out the difficulty of online journalism is can't survive without a wealthy benefactor or cat GIFS (random entertainment). The meat of his point is here.
News has always been subsidized somehow
Matthew points out Jeff Bezos acquisition of the Washington Post and other trade pubs.
Until it was acquired by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post was subsidized not just by the Graham family, but also by the Kaplan education business (until it began to fail as well). In Canada, the largest national paper — theGlobe and Mail — is owned by the Thomson family of Thomson Reuters fame, while the Toronto Star has been subsidized by both a family trust and the Harlequin romance business. The parent company of the Guardian in Britain subsidizes its journalism through a family trust but also through the ownership of the Auto Trader group of companies.
No different than understanding the background and history of a writer it is useful to understand what is subsidizing the news you are reading, because news in itself is not profitable.