NEW YORK—At the Bryant Park Hotel last night, a discussion sponsored by Bluewolf, a technology consulting company (with the generic sounding title “Future of Media: Preparing for Change”) kicked off with a video clip from 1981 about the San Francisco Examiner’s first experiments putting print content online.

It’s a bit disconcerting that a few of the same major issues that media companies were grappling with in 1981—like paid content models and the Web putting print employees out of jobs—are plaguing the industry today.

During a Q&A session—with media executives from Google to the Buffalo News weighing in—keynoter Clay Shirkey, technologist, professor of interactive telecommunications at New York University and “the provocative voice of all things Internet,” said this: “Media companies keep talking about paid content, and as a result are really just restating the problem.”

Shirky believes that the next step in the publishing model is paid content through online subscriptions, something which, he says, has been “unexplored.” He cited magazines like Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports as examples of this success. “The model is easy enough that anyone can implement it by next Thursday…but in order to get readers to pay for online subscriptions, you have to offer something on their behalf, like no advertising.”