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In mid-December 2009 the ShareASale affiliate network announced the winners of its 2009 Performance Awards.
The "Exceptional Affiliate" prize went to a promising affiliate
marketing company operating out of Cambridge, Massachusetts:
StyleFeeder. A month later, the site was bought by Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the U.S.
The company describes itself in the following way:
"StyleFeeder is a personal shopping engine that learns your style and helps you shop for apparel, accessories, shoes, furniture, home goods, jewelry, gadgets. Think of us like a Pandora or LastFM for shopping, or a personal stylist who shops the web on your behalf.
We quickly learn your style so that every search on our site is personalized, returning products in your predicted order of preference. We'll recommend products we think you'll love, and even help you find your StyleTwins across the globe. We search thousands of stores and over 14 million products to find things that match your style... [my italics]
An excellent concept, and certainly reminiscent of a post stressing the importance of personalization of offers that affiliates display to their sites' visitors.
And no, it's no coincidence that this particular company is located in the home city of Harvard University. Two of StyleFeeder's employees, as well as two of the company's advisers, are Harvard's graduates. The brilliant team of people, their brilliant concept, and the success they have achieved in slightly over 3 years [see original press release here] of operating in the online space -- all of this has attracted some serious interest from one of the world's largest media conglomerates.
Marking a significant entrée into e-commerce, magazine publisher Time Inc. has acquired StyleFeeder...
In the third quarter of 2009, Time Warner's publishing division, which includes Time Inc., saw its ad revenue drop 22 percent, or $129 million, from the same quarter last year, while subscription revenues fell 13 percent, or $49 million, over the same period.
The acquisition of StyleFeeder to build out a fledgling e-commerce business aims to carve out an additional source of revenue for the struggling division.
So, Time Warner has acquired a successful affiliate marketer in an effort to shore up their dropping revenues.
What are the plans for the nearest future, and cost of the deal?
Time Inc. expects StyleFeeder to be laced throughout the Web site of its fashion magazine InStyle, a key brand inside a group of magazines, including People, that are highly regarded by Time Warner executives. Time Inc. said StyleFeeder also could be woven into Web sites of other brands, including Essence and People en Espanol.
Time Inc. didn't disclose the price of the deal, which is expected to be announced as early as Tuesday, but a person familiar with the matter said it was "well into eight figures."
"With more than 1 million registered members and 600,000 unique visitors monthly," StyleFeeder is expected to become a major source of power boost for the Web site of one of its magazines, InStyle" [source]. With the price of the deal being "well into eight figures", Time Warner obviously believes in the future of affiliate marketing, at least in the contexts of social and comparison shopping.