Comics like mine used to build followings through a system of patronage and word of mouth via links from other comics, popular blogs - in essence, journalistic models. The barrier to entry, pathetically low compared to the agonies of making one’s niche work known pre-Internet, still required a certain amount of negotiation. You had to be able to make a website. You had to do a bit of networking. You had to be able to FTP something. You had to put in a modest amount of effort.
A few years later, we have Tumblr.