Today, I wholeheartedly disagree, in part because the technology has evolved. In the heyday of Yahoo, Web sites were indexed by category. Search for "poetry magazine" and a journal came up only if the editor had taken the time to seed the appropriate HTML meta tags. Now search engines catalogue the entire verbiage of a page—if someone Googles your name, up pops your poem or story or essay. For every reader who tracks down the Kenyon Review in his local bookstore, there are ten who don't have access, don't have money, or need a medium they can surreptitiously read at their office desks.
In other words, modern writers are increasingly defined by the work they have available online. Those serious about developing a career have to think about managing that virtual dimension. And the most powerful, direct way to do so is to engage the medium—read online journals, evaluate them, and send them work you're proud to have associated with your name.
If you're not convinced, don't believe the hype; believe the numbers. Since Bruce Covey launched his online magazine, Coconut, in 2005, he has monitored visitor traffic. "A new issue of Coconut gets about ten thousand unique page views in its first two weeks," he reported recently. "Readership has increased with every issue. We have readers in Japan, Korea, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, the Philippines, Qatar—all over the world."
Today's best online journals offer innovation as well as visibility. Linebreak pairs each poem with an audio file—the poem as read by another poet. Drunken Boat bills itself as a multimedia journal that curates sound and video alongside poetry and prose. No Tell Motel features a new poem five days out of every week; Anti- includes twenty "feature poets" beyond its biannual publishing schedule. Even journals that mimic the conventions of a print format—such as Memorious, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Mezzo Cammin—use their Web sites to provide easily accessed, well-organized archives. Slate has even created the Fray, a virtual space where readers can publicly respond to poems and essays.
One journal frequently cited as a leader among online venues is Blackbird, which is hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University. Each biannual issue includes poetry, prose, nonfiction, reviews, and features, formatted in a warm color palette with sepia-toned photographs, which visitors can explore using easy-to-use navigation bars. It doesn't hurt that Blackbird is among the few journals, online or print, able to offer honoraria to its contributors.