Getting Real


You've built an online service, something of a cross between eBay and ThomasNet. It's focused on facilitating B2B connections in the explosive China marketplace. It's so well received it generates over 10 million sales leads annually. That's just part of the massive success story that is Global Sources. And what does Global Sources do next? It launches a print trade magazine.
Okay, the Global Sources story is actually more complicated than this, but my point remains: with everyone working so hard to find success online, how is it that some of the most successful online players are making moves into print?

Consider another undisputed online success story: TechTarget. Born online, it now has not one but three print titles now. And they serve high tech markets of digital natives, where the conventional wisdom would suggest print should be long out of fashion.

My absolute favorite example is still Search Marketing Standard, a new print trade magazine serving SEO and SEM professionals. Even those whose profession is to show others how to market and sell online still apparently want to receive their information in print.

It's easy to say, "hey, if companies will buy ads and people will read it, why not do a print magazine?" Fair enough, but that doesn't get at the bigger question: what drives the enduring appeal of print to both advertisers and readers?

Quite likely, there are multiple drivers, many of them quite banal, that work to make things look more complicated than they really are. But one factor, and I've heard this from both publishers and advertisers, is that print "makes you more real." Think about it. Anyone can create a website cheaply and easily, but few can afford to publish a print magazine. It speaks to commitment, substance, authority and influence on the part of the publisher. Advertisers say basically the same thing. The print medium lets them be more creative and deliver more complex messages. Just as importantly, a full-page print ad lets an advertiser stand out from the crowd, and demonstrate substance and commitment that's a lot harder in the pay-per-click online world. In short, print lets both publishers and advertisers make a real statement. And generate real business, which in turn generates real profits. And that's real good.

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