Ever tried to get people to visit a website from a sales letter or a printed advertisement? Of course you have. Was it effective, or were you wasting your time? It is of course very hard to measure the impact of any “offline” promotion of online resources, but I think that the reason so few people try to do it is because many are frightened of the likely results.
I will say this: in 20 years of working in industrial online marketing, I can’t recall a single example of anyone driving a lot of traffic from print to screen.
I’m still trying to do it myself. I recently produced a magazine with a 3,000 circulation, which anecdotal evidence suggests was widely read. “Further information” was provided at a website, quoted in every article. The website traffic? Almost zero. OK, maybe it wasn’t interesting enough. But then I emailed some of the same articles to just 10% of the circulation. The website traffic, and response? Actually, rather impressive.
I think the lesson here is not that any one medium is better than another, but that it’s a mistake to mix media as part of an integrated message. If the tale you want to tell involves visiting a website, then promote it online. If you want to sell using paper, make the response mechanism more physical too (a form, or even a phone call). And unless you’re really scared of what the results might show, do try to measure what’s happening.