Buy.com Goes Cataloging

Buy.com is looking to traditional media to stir up business for its e-commerce site, unveiling a self-titled magazine designed to promote the same products it sells online.

The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based electronics e-tailer took the wraps off the quarterly Buy.com Magazine, which will highlight the company’s computers, wireless phones, PDAs, and audio and video entertainment products. Along with the magazine’s advertised deals, Buy.com said it would offer free shipping for catalog orders above $99.

In addition to the usual catalog-type elements, however, Buy.com Magazine will contain editorial features centered around consumer technology. The inaugural issue includes articles on flat-panel monitors, digital cameras and — not surprisingly — the benefits of buying online.

Buy.com founder Scott Blum reckons that editorial aspect would make the publication more than just a typical catalog — and more appealing to consumers.

“I believe that Buy.com has re-defined the way e-tailers communicate with their customers,” Blum said. “Like all great technology magazines, our publication looks to educate our readership with more than just pictures and prices. As a magazine, our goal is to respond to our readers with the compelling articles they demand and continue to offer them the best products at the lowest prices.”

In addition to promoting selected products from its Web site, the magazine will include advertising. For its initial issue, Buy.com Magazine has landed ads from companies including Visa, Cingular Wireless, NEC-Mitsubishi and router-maker Linksys.

The magazine’s initial printing run of 5 million copies will be mailed to registered users of the site.

The move mimics earlier, successful efforts by firms like Alley-based Alloy.com to expand into offline publishing and direct mail. For instance, the company publishes AlloyGirl Magazine and Strength Magazine which, like Buy.com Magazine, include shopping guides. The site also publishes two monthly “style guides,” female-focused Alloy and male skater-oriented CSS, both catalogs that feature integrated editorial.

Alloy’s publications, which are tailored to the site’s teenaged demographic, have proven lucrative for the firm, which is flirting with profitability. Alloy’s two catalogs reach about 5.2 million, while AlloyGirl and Strength reach an additional 900,000.

Buy.com desperately needs its effort to blossom in the same way. In third quarter, the company posted a loss of $10 million on sales of $75 million, and $38.7 million in cash remaining at the time. (The company has since been delisted from Nasdaq, and has thus been exempt from the exchange’s filing requirements.)

In August, Blum bought out the company and agreed to pay more than $9 million to cover its debts to credit card processors. Later that month, Buy.com retained Thinkbig Marketing Group, a creative design and strategic marketing agency, to spearhead a new promotional effort that included a Web site redesign, and now, Buy.com Magazine.

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