Do writers need Web sites. In my opinion, if you're searching for work on Internet then yes. But why, I hear you ask?
When I decided to get serious about my freelance career, I spent considerable time researching Internet resources while planning my marketing strategy. Would there be enough work on Internet to sustain my existence? Or would I have to resort to a print marketing campaign to get word out? Given that e-mail is cheaper than paper and postage, Internet seemed a good option. So, I built a Web site, which, I expect to work for me on three levels.
First of all, it 'looks' good to have a Web address. And they're as commonplace as telephone and fax numbers in Author Interviews these days. Therefore, in terms of projecting a savvy image, a Web site is invaluable for providing another way for a potential client to reach you.
Secondly, a Web site can be a showcase. If you have clips then uploading them to your site is a quick way for clients to see what you're capable of. If you're just beginning, it's a chance to present some material. Yes clients look for published work, but they also appreciate good writing.
Depending on your HTML skills, a Web page can let you show off photography you may have taken. Being able to take a photo if needed is a great skill for intrepid reporter. I have a few photos in my clip file I'm particularly proud of - one being a rather fetching close-up of a Highland cow, featuring front page of a Sunday supplement. Said cow now features in Clips section on my Web site.
Another aspect to 'showmanship' is employers often request clips as text only. No attachments, nothing fancy. It's rather sad to see your official newspaper clips reduced to bare text, with no formatting. I'm often tempted, as are others, to attach a little jpeg or pdf file to show how my work 'really looked'. Nevertheless, you have to respect potential employers' wishes. So, with text, I paste URL of better-presented piece, knowing that employer may also want to see a better layout. It's easier for client to click a hotlink to a Web page than to open another program to see my work (Big hint: Make it easy for client).