I think you'll find that the "notion" of free content began with Television. Now, you didn't have to buy a newspaper or magazine subscription to keep up with events, you could get it "free" on TV. Once the competition for ad revenue began, content became, in many ways, secondary. Ad revenue goes where the eyes are.
Could be, although the TV model isn't really that different from print. It's all about getting eyeballs to ads. There are tons of "free" print publications out there, including many smaller, regional sailing pubs. Subscription rates have never generated much revenue for publications (5% to 20% at the most). It's always about delivering an audience to the advertiser.
The thing that publishers forgot though, is that most people don't buy a magazine, or watch a TV show, for the ads. They want good quality content. By selling out to the advertisers, by cutting back on content production (freelance rates & staff cuts), they have cut their own throats.
It's not that we are losing quality input (intellectual property), but that it has become increasingly harder to protect it.
I would argue we are losing -- have lost -- quality input. Good writing, good research, good analysis takes time. It's true that there are some good researchers/writers who can pay their rent paid through other means, and can therefore afford to give their work away, but this is the exception, not the rule.
Actually, cruising is the perfect analogy. Sure, anyone can jump in a sailboat and make it go, but there is a huge difference in skill and quality between a novice sailor and a cruiser who's been out there for years.
The vast majority of material out there, be it in blogs, on YouTube, or indeed in forums like this, is plain and simple crap. A small amount is utterly amazing, Pulitzer prize winning stuff, but most of it is garbage. The real problem is that the place that we once turned to for quality material; the magazines & newspapers, have decided to give us crap as well.