ericauchard1– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

There is nothing like the threat of a hanging to concentrate the mind.

The newspaper industry is in a collective panic over its future. The debate centers on the thorny issue of how publishers might find some way, any way, to make online readers to pay for what they read.

The fear is that the newspaper business model has suffered a mortal wound from the collapse of advertising that once funded it, and which has only accelerated in the current economic environment. Or perhaps it’s the realization that younger generations reared on digital media will never settle down to buy print.

This crisis has forced leading publishers and pundits propose all manner of last-ditch business strategies or glitzy technical solutions to cut off the abundant supply of free Web news undercutting their business models.

Print newspapers are limited by space on the page and the boundaries of physical distribution. But the volume of online news seems almost infinite and most of it is free.