Book Club Partners With BlackPlanet to Boost Membership

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BlackPlanet.com is expected today to strike a deal with BookSpan that will allow the direct marketer of book clubs to market to the online community's more than 2 million mostly black members.


Through banner ads, content sponsorships and contests, BookSpan, New York, will promote its African-American book club, Black Expressions, to BlackPlanet members and try to build its own membership.


During the six months leading up to the closing of the deal, BookSpan signed up 10,000 people on BlackPlanet to join Black Expressions. The company's goal was to enlist 2,000 members during that period.


Launched 18 months ago, Black Expressions has about 350,000 members, said Seth Radwell, president/CEO of Booksonline.com, the online division of BookSpan. The company built its membership through similar deals with other black Web sites, he said.


However, the agreement with BlackPlanet, which is for one year, is the longest deal it has formed with an African-American Web site, Radwell said. BookSpan thinks the longer deal will allow it to build stronger relationships, he said.


"We're not looking to do pure ad buys," Radwell said. "We'd like to take an integrated approach, where we can really work with sites to integrate some of our content within the site."


The BookSpan content will include author interviews, first chapters, reviews of new books and message boards where BlackPlanet members can post their opinions of the books, Radwell said.


BlackPlanet will feature Black Expressions banner ads on its home page and in several of its sections, including its newly formed book section. Also, the agreement has an e-mail component that allows BookSpan to send notes to BlackPlanet's membership about twice per month.


BlackPlanet, whose members must register upon entering the Web site, will implement a so-called interim registration page for Black Expressions, said Omar Wasow, executive director at BlackPlanet. The page, which is not a pop-up window, will appear when a user enters a name and password, he said.


Thereafter, users will be given the choice of opting in to join the book club for a special discount -- three books at $1 each for members. Registrants also will be entered in a contest with a prize of $1,000 and a Black Expressions calendar.


"If a company wants good results on a direct response campaign on the Web, it's much easier when you're able to get in front of people repeatedly with your invitation to subscribe," Wasow said.


Finally, BlackPlanet will offer its members points through its loyalty program if they sign up with Black Expressions, Wasow said. BlackPlanet members can accumulate points toward free T-shirts, hats and mugs with BlackPlanet's logo on it, he said.


"We're doing a fairly modest incentive to participate in Black Expressions' book club as a way to further drive conversions," Wasow said.


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