More than a decade after it entered the workplace and popular culture, some businesses still struggle with melding the Internet and traditional operations.

Seven or so years ago, HVAC and sheet metal companies, like many industries, embraced the Internet with the promise that an online “presence” was all that was needed to ensure big profits. The stock market, at the height of the “dotcom” bubble, was full of companies that had yet to turn a profit but whose stock was worth millions. Investors were told the profits were sure to come. If a company had a Web site, how could they lose?

I started at Snips during this time, inheriting a column called I-Net Buzz from a previous editor. The name aside, which always struck me as slightly cheesy, the column was a place to include news on all the HVAC and sheet metal companies debuting Web sites during that go-go online era.

And there was plenty of it. Every week, we received several press releases on established companies that were going online. Even more common, however, were announcements that new, online-only companies were entering the industry. Without so-called brick-and-mortar stores, these stores could offer better prices and quicker service, they said.

Signs

But by early 2001, I could tell something was happening. These start-up companies, which had become major exhibitors at industry trade shows, started pulling out, leaving empty booths on the show floor. Many times, the companies were still listed in the show directory or signs were still hanging in the empty booths - proof the companies had canceled on short notice.

I started calling some of the companies I had featured in I-Net Buzz just a few months earlier, and found many of the numbers had been disconnected.

Even a recent press release was no guarantee a company was still in business. I started calling companies before including them in the Internet column. More than a couple had closed only weeks after sending out announcements.

In retrospect, the quick rise and fall of these companies was easy to predict. A Web site is not a business plan, and people won’t buy from you simply because your company is online.

The publishing industry, especially trade magazines, is still finding its way through the online world. That’s certainly true at Snips. If you compared the look of our Web site, www.snipsmag.com, to its earlier incarnations, you’d see a big difference. We’ve also experimented with other features, some more successful than others.

Our bulletin board, which was up for about five years, was perpetually underused. We had hoped it would be a resource for contractor discussions, but we averaged only a few posts a month, unless you count spam for herbal Viagra and stock tips.

More than a year ago, we decided to require registration to visit most of Snipsmag.com. Many publications, mainstream and niche, do this. We had hoped it would generate more information on who reads our magazine online.

But now we’ve decided it’s more important to allow visitors easy access to the magazine, so you’ll now find all online content is open except for archives, which will still require registration.

In coming weeks, we’re planning to add more frequent Web updates so visitors can get some of the news and information that doesn’t make it into Snips each month.

And while you’re at Snipsmag.com, you may want to sign up for our e-newsletter. E-mailed to 4,600 subscribers each month, it includes recent news, a recap of the current month’s issue and a peek at next month’s Snips.

We’re always looking for ways to improve our Web site and visitors’ experiences while on it. If there’s something you’d like to see us do, e-mail me at mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com.