Doc Searls has been at the center of a bunch of discussion about big-name print journalism contents not being on the Web for any usable time in any usable form. Well, I know where they go when they die, and it's not to heaven; I'm astounded that nobody else has picked up on the basic dollars-and-cents issues here.
When they die, they go to places like Dialog, for a detailed list check out here. This has been going on for years; if you want to use the back issues of the big-name pubs for research, you can, but you have to pay for it, to Dialog or one of its competitors.
This isn't exactly a huge business—Dialog is a modest-sized part of the Thomson Publishing empire—but it's quite a bit more than zero. I don't know who the bulk of subscribers are, but they include private investigators, corporate research departments, and financial analysts.
Does It Still Work? · The complaint now is that the big-name pubs are possibly being undervalued by Google, and the reason is obvious, if your content isn't there to be pointed at, well it's not gonna get found. It's pretty obvious that you can't have your cake (run your back content as a line of business) and eat it too (be a Web content heavyweight).
It might change. When the moment comes that there's more money to be made off the back content by web advertising than there is from selling Dialog subscriptions, then they'll make the move. It's not obvious to me whether that's already happened, whether it's going to happen soon, or whether it's way off in the future. It's not obvious to anyone who doesn't have access to the inside financial poop from the players concerned.
But bear in mind that these are businesses. They'll make the move when, and only when, the money says to. Abstractions like Web Citizenship are not part of the equation.