Until a day ago, Floyd Landis was simply the American cyclist who won the Tour de France after an epic, one-day escape put him in a position to clinch the win.

Now Landis is accused of cheating by using performance-enhancing testosterone, though there are a lot of questions surrounding the testing (and he still has a “B” sample counter-test yet to be performed).

Yet – to most of the mainstream media – the question of Landis’ innoccence is glossed over, his guilt a bygone conclusion, and his career in jeopardy.

The Value of Community

While the mainstream media butcher the facts of the story, it seems as if the only people getting it “right” are the blogs and online communities of cycling fans – sites like the Podium Cafe.

The relatively small Podium Cafe community has leveraged the Internet and amassed an impressive amount of information about the tests, the recent changes in test results, potential for false positives, etc.

In short, they’ve done a far better job than the mainstream media, and it’s likely the information they’ve gathered will radiate outward. Shout down the major media? Unlikely. But have an effect? Some today. And more tomorrow.

So why all this in a marketing blog?

Imagine your organization is Landis. And it’s been accused of something, then tried and convicted by the trade press without benefit of due process. Now imagine your organization had created and supported an online community that was willing to do the digging and investigation the media wasn’t.

In a small, narrow product universe, the effects would be significant. In some cases, hugely significant.

Today’s organizations are taking their first, tentative steps towards online community building (engagement marketing), and some balk at the difficulties estimating revenues derived from the venture. They wonder if they can afford it (though the technology is very cheap).

I wonder how they can’t.