Clique merging content and commerce

Clique.com will announce a partnership with Forbes Inc.

Clique.com will announce a partnership with Forbes Inc. Monday to create a store that is integrated into the Forbes Web site.

The partnership is part of a new service that Clique.com, a Seattle-based startup, offers magazines. The company will set up Web sites selling products featured in the publications.

"Our advertisers drive billions of dollars in product sales annually," Forbes Inc. vice president Greg Zorthian said in a release. "A partnership with Clique will allow us to secure a portion of that revenue through online sales at Forbes.com, allows advertisers to grow their online distribution channels aligned with their offline advertising strategy, and most importantly, gives our subscribers instant access the to products and services found in Forbes Magazine."

Clique.com works closely with the magazines before their publishing date so that it can work out deals with the manufacturers who are advertising in the publication or whose products are featured.

Readers who are interested in buying the products will be directed via tags directly in the copy, through house ads in the magazine and inserts.

The products are featured on a co-branded site, in Forbes' case Forbes.clique.com. While the sites will be customized with the magazine's logos and graphics, Clique.com will handle all of the sales, from credit card transaction processing to fulfillment and customer service. The magazines will get a cut of the revenue generated from the sites.

"Magazines are usually a great vehicle for inspiration but they don't allow you to take action. We provide ... stores for readers to come to buy the products," said CEO Mark Lundstrom. "It's modernizing or automating the information in the back of the magazine today."

Lundstrom said the company plans to announce deals with more magazines in the next few months.

Providing links to an online store for advertisers is one thing, but providing links within editorial copy could raise bigger issues.

"We believe that as long as you're clear as to what the business relationship is," it's okay, said Lundstrom. "As long as you're giving them the 800 number to call, why not go that next step and let them buy?"

Merging content and commerce
The merging of content and commerce is nothing new, particularly online. Many news media Web sites, including CNN, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT), and ZDNet (NYSE:ZDZ), have links from their Web sites to areas where consumers can shop.

In some cases, the links are very distinct from the editorial copy, but the line is not quite so clear in others.

Keeping those distinctions sharp will be important for publishers, said David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Communications in New York.

"The good publications, to maintain credibility, will have to make it clear when they're recommending (to buy) and when they're covering," he said.

But the publishers may need to get involved in this business at some point, he said.

"The business models are changing so much so fast. And what little survey work we've done with consumers suggests they aren't bothered by it," he said.

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