I just read one of the most elucidating articles ever on the real difference between print and digital newspapers. I'm pasting a link below to the source, "Business Insider". This piece really laid out the essential distinction at the heart of the two business models. Henry Blodget, the author, clearly explained the economics of a print newspaper and a digital one and why it's so hard for a major, established newspaper like the New York Times to morph into a digital paper successfully.
I'm not going to repeat everything Blodget said, but I realized as I read his piece that one advantage digital media has is that advertisers can know if readers are engaging in their advertising. This idea really struck me because back in 1999, I was part of a team that wrote a business plan for a pre-Google pay-for-position/pay-per-click search engine called FindWhat.com. In that plan I quoted John Wannamaker who famously said he knew half his advertising was wasted. He just didn't know which half.
Previously, a store like Saks Fifth Avenue could run full page ads in the New York Times and never know how many readers actually saw and remembered the ad. The advertiser had to make a guess based upon the Times' circulation. But with a digital news site, advertisers can post contextual ads and actually know how many people clicked on the ad. It's all about the clicks and the marketing intelligence marketers can pick up from those clicks. That can be worth a lot of revenue. Just think of how rich pay-per-click has made Google.
Blodget goes into much more detail. If you want to really understand the future and the economics of newspapers and digital media, read "On Our Third Birthday, Some Thoughts on Digital Media and the Future of the Newspaper Business."