Attributes No. 1 Status to Early Entry

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Greeting card publisher Blue Mountain Arts Inc., Boulder, CO, plans to remain focused on building traffic at its popular Web site and will not begin charging for its virtual cards in the foreseeable future, executive director Jared Schutz said last week.

With more than 11 million unique monthly visitors, is the 13th most visited site on the Internet and the No. 1 shopping site, according to March data from Internet audience measurement firm Media Metrix Inc., New York. But the company is an anomaly among the big Web players: Blue Mountain carries no advertising, gives its cards away free, and is one of only a few major sites that is privately held.

"Our primary goal is to continue to build traffic, and we're not going to implement any monetization at the expense of the consumer experience," Schutz said.

Blue Mountain carries out no promotions or advertising to steer people to its Web page, and has no paid portal deals or other distribution arrangements, added Schutz, who is the son of company founders Stephen and Susan Polis Schutz.

So why so much traffic? Schutz credits the site's bustling traffic to word-of-mouth, a free, quality product and Blue Mountain's early entry into the virtual greeting card space. The company went online in early 1996, before rivals E-greetings Network, which operates on an advertising model, and American Greetings Inc., which sells cards online.

Blue Mountain serves as a reminder to Web marketing entrepreneurs of the power of getting a brand online before the competition, said Doug McFarland, general manager and senior vice president at Media Metrix.

"Just as eBay was the first major auction site and gets most of the attention in that area, and Amazon was the first bookstore and GeoCities was the first of the major home page sites, being first to market has a huge benefit and advantage, and that's what you're seeing here with Blue Mountain Arts," McFarland said.

Schutz concurred: "At this point, many of our competitors are starting to copy our model, but too late. We have a substantial first-mover advantage and we already have the traffic."

First appearances to the contrary, the company does believe in making money. The company sells cards offline through brick-and-mortar retailers. People sending virtual cards via e-mail to friends and families through are shown links to, an online florist the firm owns. Blue Mountain has struck agreements with independent growers that ship flowers overnight to customers.

But consumers never pay for cards or see other advertising on the main site, and Blue Mountain collects no personal data from its consumers. Schutz did not rule out the possibility of selling other items in the future.

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