What we’ve found: When it comes to spreading a story, the mainstream media isn’t as important as the micromedia. Being written up at the right blogs has had way more impact for us than the press we’ve gotten in big-circulation publications.

Traditional media is losing ground
“10 reasons why newspapers won’t reinvent news” [via JK] explains why papers are having a tough time keeping up with the web:

Newsrooms don’t trail the leading edge simply because they’re too dumb to keep up…Most newspapers can’t see what’s coming…Most newspaper payrolls are bloated with pluralities of resentful Luddites who struggle with the complexities of e-mail…Inertia, uncertainty and toxic paralysis rule most newspaper companies…In 2008, all meaningful political discourse — the essential element of social currency — takes place on the Web. Print (and televised) political coverage is now but a pale shadow of the real action online.

This bit from “On the Bus, But With No Reason to Go?” [Washington Post], an article about the evolving role of the press in the presidential campaign, shows the impact: The mainstream media just doesn’t matter that much anymore.

Obama advisers have concluded that newspaper and magazine stories no longer have the same resonance but that a brief item by, say, Politico bloggers can spread like wildfire.”

We’ve noticed a similar trend in our sphere too…

Time vs. Daring Fireball
We’ve been written up in big mainstream publications like Wired and Time, but we’ve found that we actually get more hits when we’re profiled on sites like Daring Fireball or Lifehacker. Links from these places result in bigger spikes in our traffic and sales.

When 43 Folders’ Merlin Mann lists one of our products at his site, we get thousands of new visitors. During a recent 37signals Live we were conducting, Digg’s Kevin Rose posted a note to Twitter that he was watching us. We instantly saw a bump of 200 viewers. Articles in bigtime publications are nice and sound impressive, but they don’t result in that level of direct, instant activity.

These smaller sites don’t have the same volume of readers as, say, Newsweek, but the people who do read them actually care about what they have to say. There’s a relationship. The audience isn’t made up of random readers, it’s people who think a certain way.

Lower barrier
Plus, it’s a lot easier to actually get through to these sites. Pitching Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal’s tech reporter, is hard. Good luck even getting ahold of him. And even if you did, he probably wouldn’t care about your startup (or whatever) anyway. (PR agencies may have more contacts but are also a good way to waste your money.)

With bloggers, the barrier is much lower. You can send an email and get a response (and maybe even a post) the same day. There’s no editiorial board or PR people involved. There’s no monthlong (or longer) pipeline to delay your message. When you go after micromedia, you get immediacy and approachability.

And they’re actually hungry for fresh meat too. They thrive on being tastemakers, finding the new thing, and starting the ball rolling. They are the opposite of “resentful Luddites who struggle with the complexities of e-mail.”

You may think that Wired, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and other big media outlets are the holy grail of getting noticed. But you’ll actually get a lot more results from the little guys who are willing to listen and have an audience that really trusts them.