It is rather utopic to insist that in a world of changing means of communications, a world where printed matter is losing ground to the advantage of electronic media, the diffusion of scientific information may or shall stay the same.
The main force behind these changes is of course the difference between the cost of a word printed on paper and the same word produced by 100% recyclable electrons on a digital screen -be it an iphone, or a kindle, or a notebook. Why spending significant amounts of money on printed matter when a cheaper version of the same information is available, with the added bonus of being easier to store, to retrieve, to search, and to copy ? Simply, there is no reason.
Only libraries have an important reason to continue to amass paper copies of those magazines: the rationale of their existence is of course that a conservation of the scientific output of human knowledge cannot rely solely on digital media. But libraries, as much as they are willing to pay hefty sums to the publishers, constitute a tiny fraction of the consumer world.
Science journalism may have started to feel the pressure of competition from independent, often unpaid actors in the web a bit later than other forms of publishing. But as I myself witnessed at the World Conference of Science Journalism held in London last June, the phenomenon is in full swing, and the mood is generally gloomy among the professionals. They share a feeling of powerlessness, which permeates vertically all layers -from top-notch writers to free-lance irregulars.
Maybe because who reads about science is more naturally a technologically-versed person, or because science is read more often at home rather than on the train to work, the challenge facing science writers is tougher than that of their general news reporting colleagues. The internet is largely still a place where people expect to find information for free. Unless this changes -and I sincerely hope it will not- there is no way out. Competition from developing countries will increase; the cost per word will go down; and many professionals will have to start finding other ways to make ends meet. Another result of globalization, like it or not.
Now, I am not a science journalist, but neither am I a consumer. I do not feel threatened by this situation, but neither do I rejoice. I think the information available for free is of lower quality, on average, than that paid with one's bucks. Yes, I do. There are, of course, significant exceptions, but I still believe that as much as I and others like me enjoy writing about the science we do, professional science reporters do a better job, if at times a tad imprecise, in reporting news worth reading about science advancements.
Regardless of the quality, there is no way back. I believe it is futile to try and force a model of journalism and protect a market which are bound to be substituted with something more in line with the way of life and habits of XXIst Century Man. In general, information is increasing in amount and in ease of access, and its cost and quality are decreasing. I think it fits well to the new age.
Can we stop evolution ? No, we cannot. Intelligent design is a failed model of the origin of life on Earth. There is no reason to think we can steer the evolution of the distribution of information with our own intelligent design, either.