Time Inc. buys shopping search engine StyleFeeder to diversify revenue stream

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Time Inc. acquired StyleFeeder, a shopping search engine, earlier this month in a move to diversify the publisher's revenue stream and take advantage of the growing apparel and accessories market. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

StyleFeeder does not sell products, but drives users to retailers' Web sites. The engine then gets a percentage of each sale it generates. That percentage varies by retail partner.

StyleFeeder will be integrated most closely with the InStyle brand, said Fran Hauser, president of digital for Time Inc.'s style and entertainment group, which includes InStyle, People, Entertainment Weekly, Essence and People en Espanol magazines.

“Shopping is a natural extension of what women are doing on InStyle.com,” she said. “We plan on having StyleFeeder power all the shopping on our site.”

In addition to being embedded on InStyle's site, StyleFeeder will also retain its own Web presence, StyleFeeder.com.

Hauser said the growing apparel and accessories market proved to be a big incentive and prompted the move.

“According to Forrester, the market is currently a $26 billion market and is expected to grow to $40 billion in four years, which is why now was a good time for the acquisition,” she said.

Hauser added that advertising will remain Time Inc.'s primary revenue stream, but that e-commerce is a way for the company to diversify that.

She added that Time Inc. will supplement StyleFeeder.com with some content, but what and how much is yet to be determined.

“We're still early on in the concept phase, but we're going to incorporate editorial content in some form to StyleFeeder,” she said. “But at the same time, we don't want to distract the shopper with too much content, but only enhance their experience.”

Philip Jacobs, founder and chief technology officer of StyleFeeder, said the primary goal of the sale is to increase revenue and reach, and to also gain more members.

In terms of e-mail marketing, he said StyleFeeder sends out about a million e-mails per month to its most active users.

“Promotions and personalized e-mails showing recommendations are sent out about once a week,” Jacobs said.

The acquisition also presents opportunities for marketers and advertisers, Hauser said.

“If you think about the data we have on consumers, like what types of products they like, what they're searching for and what brands they're interested in, we can offer users highly contextualized advertising,” she said. “Plus, our users are in the mindset to shop, so that's the exact consumer [advertisers] want to reach.”

StyleFeeder will have no staff changes and will remain in its Cambridge, MA office. Time Inc. is headquartered in New York.  

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