This really is not thought out as well as I’d like, but it seems important so here goes:
In search of the sustainable business model for online journalism it seems to me that there are two areas that are key:
1. Well-organised data
News is information, information is data. The better the structures you have in place to organise and classify that data, the more likely you will be able to sell what you have as a unique service. You also have a better ability to repurpose, reinvent and diversify what you do for the changing needs of clients/customers.
2. A loyal network
In journalism you are nothing if you don’t have a community backing you. Newspapers need readers, sites need users. Online is no different, you may have the scale, but you also need some form of loyalty and personal buy in to what you do. These are the people who are of interest to sponsors/advertisers and they also might save you if times get tough.