*LinkShare To Build 1-800-Flowers’ Affiliate Program

1-800-Flowers will announce today that it has signed a deal with affiliate partnership broker LinkShare Corporation, under which LinkShare will build and manage a private-label affiliate program for the flower merchant.

Affiliate programs are partnerships in which online marketers pay commissions to Web-site owners who send them customers. The most recognizable affiliate program is that of online bookseller Amazon.com, which claims more than 200,000 merchant partners or “associates.”

Though 1-800-Flowers already has an affiliate program designed and managed internally, the program has so far grown only to some 300 merchants.

Outsourcing the affiliate network will allow 1-800-Flowers to focus on what it does best, said Donna Iucalano, vice president of interactive services at 1-800-Flowers, Westbury, NY.

“[Managing an affiliate network in-house] became a question of ‘what business are we in, the software design business or the flower selling business?'” said Iucalano.

Launched in fall 1997, LinkShare brokers and tracks commission-based sales deals between Internet companies. For a commission, LinkShare, New York, will track sales through any type of link, including those imbedded in banners, e-mail and text.

Noting that LinkShare has more than 35,000 affiliate Web sites in its network, Stephen Messer, LinkShare CEO, predicted that 1-800-Flowers will have more than 10,000 affiliates within three months.

“Think of it as getting prime catalog space,” said Messer. “1-800-Flowers wants to own that space before anyone else gets to it.”

Also today, LinkShare will announce it has inked deals with online wine merchant Virtual Vineyards (www.virtualvinyard.com), software merchant BuyDirect (www.buydirect.com), and educational book and software merchant SmarterKids.com (www.smarterkids.com).

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