I attended a panel at AWP in Denver last week where the founding editors of Failbetter, Guernica, Blackbird, and Drunken Boat talked about their journals and the place and function of online literary journals in the wide world o’ writing. They made the point that anything published online is available to anyone with an internet connection (and some of these websites see 50,000 hits a month), while a story or poem published in a print journal is available to subscribers (for many literary journals, well under 5,000 people) and anyone who cares to go to a library that holds a subscription. Also, a website’s archives are persistent, while a magazine can sell out all its back issues.
Just for the sake of example: Matthew Derby published stories from his excellent collection Super Flat Times in both Failbetter and 3rd Bed. You can read the story from Failbetter any time you want, while to read the 3rd Bed story you either have to buy the collection or shell out six bucks plus S&H for the back issue. The closest I can get to an issue of 3rd Bed from the Utah library system is “The Andy Griffith Show, the 3rd season.”
Oh, and 3rd Bed folded in 2006; they lasted six years to Failbetter’s ten-and-counting. Take that, people who call internet journals transient!