Online, ‘linkbait‘, well done, is a proven source of traffic. Those catchy, often scandalous-sounding and sometimes deceptive headlines, coupled with juicy gossip, wild speculation or blood-boiling content may not necessarily deliver much in the way of value to advertisers, but for many publishers, it’s a staple diet.

But what about print-based linkbait? Can some of the tried and true linkbait techniques work for, say, a magazine?

Tina Brown of The Daily Beast, who bought struggling print magazine Newsweek for $1 last year, is trying to find out.

Since taking over Newsweek, she’s published some attention-grabbing covers. The latest: a controversial cover featuring United States presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

But are attention-grabbing covers, the print cousin of a tasty online headline, doing the trick for Newsweek? Not really.

While Newsweek’s single copy sales have apparently improved by 30% since the magazine’s redesign, that’s not really saying much given that we’re talking about average per-copy sales of under 50,000 through the first half of 2011.

According to Adweek, the majority of Newsweek’s most talked-about covers, including the Bachmann cover and a digitally-rendered cover featuring Princess Diana as she might have looked at age 50, haven’t sold at clips much higher than this average despite all of the buzz they’ve created.

There are a number of possible reasons for this. For starters, there are plenty of folks who simply don’t buy print magazines anymore. What’s on the cover of a magazine doesn’t matter to them.

Beyond this group, there are substantial differences between online linkbait and print linkbait. Whereas it only takes but a second to click on a crazy headline, the process of buying a magazine requires a greater investment of time and money. That’s obviously problematic if a cover masks pages with no real substance or content of entertainment value.

The lesson: despite the fact that companies will increasingly need to act in channel-agnostic way, it’s foolish to believe that consumers act the same in all channels.

To the contrary. Consumers often demand different things in different channels, and their motivations for taking action may also be different from channel to channel. That means that it’s not enough to take what works in one channel and apply it to another; selecting the right techniques for the right channels is crucial.