It's Style.com This Summer for CondeNet

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CondeNet, the Internet division of magazine publisher Advance Publications Inc., seeks to imitate the content and contextual commerce model of company-owned food and drink service Epicurious.com for Style.com, a new site touted as an online fashion resource for women.


Launching early this summer, Style.com is Advance's first collaboration between its Conde Nast Publications magazine and Fairchild Publications divisions. Advance bought fashion trade publisher Fairchild from Walt Disney Co. in November.


Style.com's success will hinge on how seamlessly CondeNet can pull off this planned but unspecified combination of relevant content and commerce, said Alan Alper, senior analyst at Gomez Advisors, Lincoln, MA.


"The question I'd have is how successful will they be in getting their food chain in alignment?" Alper said. "Do they really understand how to run an e-commerce business, or are they looking at this as a way to monetize their name and brand and Web presence?"


The fashion category is not that easy online, Alper said. He cited the example of shegetsdressed.com, a fashion site by Women.com that was unplugged February 16.


"It was put together for the holiday season, and basically, after three months, they killed it because they were having an awful lot of problems with fulfillment and customer service," he said.


Not much is known about the mechanics of Style.com. The Web address itself was bought from Express, a division of The Limited Inc. apparel retail chain. Express retains control to the name until CondeNet launches its version of Style.com.


CondeNet declined comment for this article.


According to a prepared statement, Style.com will incorporate Vogue.com, the online manifestation of the fashion magazine. Launched last September, Vogue.com offers daily coverage of fashion shows, comment on trends, forums and horoscopes.


To ensure the new company's success, CondeNet veteran Joan Feeney has been named director of Style.com. Feeney was instrumental in the launch of CondeNet's myriad online properties.


Bar Vogue.com, all other CondeNet sites target women, though for different reasons. Epicurious is for food and drink; Swoon is on relationships, and Concierge focuses on travel. Phys was repositioned in January from a health and wellness service to include fitness, weight loss and nutrition.


Style.com is part of New York-based CondeNet's gradual evolution to the content, community and commerce model so popular with other marketers.


"I'm a big believer in the fact that contextually relevant commerce can drive commerce," Gomez's Alper said. "It's an important part of the total equation, and I don't believe strictly publishing companies with old-world advertising models are going to be able to make it online if they purely look to CPMs as the engines to fuel their efforts."


Although CondeNet has yet to disclose its e-commerce tilt, selling products via third-partner retailing or manufacturing partners is likely. This is the same model pursued for Epicurious, which has teamed with San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma for kitchenware. Williams-Sonoma will fulfill all consumer orders from Epicurious.


But a big plus in CondeNet's favor is the strengths of two company brands. Conde Nast titles lead the fashion category in print magazines. Fairchild is the leading trade publisher in apparel and accessories through titles like Women's Wear Daily and W, in addition to its Jane magazine for consumers.


Content from these Conde Nast and Fairchild divisions, coupled with the relationships with advertisers and fashion marketers, may just convince online consumers of Style.com's pedigree and legitimacy.


"I think you've got two big brands and people tend to give brands a chance," said Alper. "It doesn't mean people depend on brands, but you do live in a style-conscious society where there is brand loyalty. On one level, they're going to get folks who're smitten with brands."
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