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Popularity Defines A "Real" Online News Outlet

The fine line between bloggers and journalists is getting blurrier by the day.

The economic crisis has been the death knell for many print publications this year. It’s killed off Masthead and Radar, the print edition of Christian Science Monitor, shrunk the circulation of Men’s Vogue, and caused layoffs at Time Inc, owners of Sports Illustrated and (oh, the irony) Fortune.

It’s sent many a talented journalist scurrying for the sanctuary of the internet. Some join their publications as it retreats to its online version, some start their own blogs, and many more join publications that have always been online, much like this one.

Suddenly it’s much harder to tell the respected journalist from the hack with a Livejournal account. (Ahem).

So what makes an online news outlet a “respectable” outlet? At this point in time, I think it comes down to popularity.

Sure, some of the same fundamental rules of journalism apply-well researched and relevant articles are a must, reliable sources to back up stories are essential, and an attractive, easy to read layout is key.

However, I think an outlet’s popularity and following are often why people consider it a reliable source, whether it deserves that reputation or not.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The websites for the Globe And Mail or Macleans carry the same content as their print editions along with exclusive content, and in the U.S, sites like Techcrunch have amassed a a following based on their singular focus. So the respect given to these sites is justified.

Others may seem less noteworthy, but something about the style of their writers keeps readers coming back. On the web, for now, public opinion trumps all other measures of respectability.

The bottom line? Don’t overlook any site on the web when pitching a client’s story. You may miss out on the one outlet who can forward your message to the masses.

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