Why do newspapers charge for yesterday's news?
Dan Gillmor's got a great post on what's wrong the the major newspapers' approach to their Web archives. I've long been mystified by the way the newspapers have approached the Web. Papers like the New York Times have decided that their archives -- which were previously viewed as fishwrap, as in "today it's news, tomorrow it's fishwrap" -- are their premium product, the thing that you have to pay to access; while their current articles from the past thirty days are free.
The thing is that while there is certainly a small commercial audience for newspaper archives -- corporate researchers, the occassional grad student with a grant -- the noncommercial audience for archives is much larger: people who want to read the news from their birthdays, researchers amateur and pro looking up historic dates, Bloggers writing about seminal moments.
Conversely, there is a large commercial audience for new news, that is, people who'll pay to see today's news while it's still news and before it becomes history. That's why the news business is so much larger than the history business.