How Do These Things Stay In Business (Vanity Business Who's Who Directories)?

Like many people with a web-searchable professional address, I get routine spam about how I’ve been “nominated” for some “prestigious” “Executive Who’s Who” directory – all I have to do is “complete” (write from scratch) my profile on their website. I’ve obviously never gone through with it far enough to know for sure, but it seems certain if you did this they’d be bugging you to buy the “special gold embossed hardback edition” or whatever.

I kind of guess how as a silly bit of pride parents might be conned into buying “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” or the like, but how could any serious executive (especially in a job like mine, which has its own respected and established registies/search tools) be conned into believing that anyone picks up such a bogus (online or hardcopy) directory when choosing who to hire/send business to/buy from? I’m not underestimating vanity, just common sense, that there is anything to be vain about w.r.t. having your name in some sixth-rate “directory” that no one could ever use.

How do these companies stay in business?

Never underestimate the power of egoboo.

I think they stay in business because clueless people who are not actually successful convince themselves that it is an honor to be in one of these. They probably also confuse them with the real Who’s Who - if that is actually still in existence.
If they do it print on demand, they don’t have to sell that many to make money. And people who fill in the forms even without buying are helping in the business by creating content for free.

And if you fill in the online or mail-in form, maybe you become eligible for special spam.

It makes more sense that such outfits would make money selling framed certificates and plaques certifying that so-and-so is a Major Leader in his/her field. This looks impressive to customers/clients who don’t know any better. People in dubious professions apparently benefit by having this “recognition”, along with degrees/certificates from online universities and other schools offering degree programs in horsehockeytude (for example the homeopath who can put a whole bunch of undecipherable abbreviations after his name certifying that he is a Doctor of Applied Succussology, Fellow of the Academy of Twilight Practitioners etc.).

P. T. Barnum reputedly said “There’s a sucker born every minute” over a century ago. It’s still true.