Clive Thompson wrote a great article for CBC about how the Myspace/Google/bloggo culture is changing journalism. Here’s the meat:
…newspapers and broadcasts and magazines that open themselves up – that make it easy for the audience to pass them around and share them – will thrive. Those that close themselves off to the audience’s cut-and-paste culture will slowly die. Want proof? Compare the Christian Science Monitor and The Wall Street Journal. The Monitor has a hard copy circulation of barely 71,000, a pale shadow of the Journal’s mammoth two million readers. But online, the Monitor dominates: It is proportionately 377 times more frequently linked-to than the Journal. That means it enjoys proportionately far higher traffic, far higher online influence, and far more attention from search engines like Google.
How did the Monitor accrue this advantage? By being promiscuous. The Monitor leaves all its stories permanently online for free, while the Journal locks its behind a pay-to-see wall. Bloggers thus almost never link to Journal articles, while they love to link to Monitor articles. Because it makes itself so amenable to blogging culture, the Monitor taps into pass-around culture and these rolling cascades of popularity. (Granted, the Journal is undoubtedly assuming that what it loses in online audience it gains, financially, by having a more exclusive readership. But that’s no way to influence the world, when the world now lives online. And given the steady migration of advertising online, it may not even be the soundest financial ploy.)
So this is how journalists in the future will capture the protean attention-span of society: They’ll make it easy for the online world to engage with them.
I think the key here is generosity with your audience: the more online content you offer to your readers, the more brand loyalty you will build, the more product you will end up selling. It seems counter-intuitive, but really, sometimes giving things away for free can do worlds of good for your endeavors.
Online presence is everything, whether you’re peddling papers, comics, or burritos.