Are they making the $40 per month per user that the WSJ gets?
There's also cycles. TV went through OTA to cable bundles to a-la-carte streaming and is now heading back to ads and bundles as people have reached their limit on payments. Music is in the bundle stage. New formats like podcasts are still in the early ad stage. Online publishers are at the peak of the direct payments stage and heading to news bundles next, which you mentioned yourself.
Regardless of the cycle, ads pay for the most and are almost always part of the deal because it's incredibly hard to sustain content production with rising costs at any price that consumers actually want to pay.
If there was an extension that you can install with 1-click that lets you order from Amazon.com for free, would people not use it? Does that suddenly mean that Amazon is no longer valid as a business?
These companies will either use technical countermeasures, or switch to different revenue models, or go out of business. But individual producers don't change the fact that most content is paid for by ads, powered by 2 of the biggest companies on the planet.
On the other hand, there is always the “1000 true fans” way of making money. Keep your expenses down and write content a few people are willing to pay for.
Ben Thompson over at Stratechery has well over 2000 subscribers the last time he gave out numbers, now its closer to 4000 probably. They pay him $100 a year for one article delivered 4 or 5 days a week including a free article.
John Grubsr over at Daring Firebsll is able to charge $6500 a week for a sponsorship- one article on the website and in the RSS feed at the beginning of the week and one thank you post at the end of the week.
No horrible privacy invasive ads, no ad networks, etc. It is basically an Apple centric blog he’s been building since 2002.
When Google killed Reader, he lost half of his readers but he was still able to charge his same rates. Advertisers were able to reach a desirable demographic.