Time Snaps Up e-Commerce Firm StyleFeeder

Marking a significant entrée into e-commerce, magazine publisher Time Inc. has acquired StyleFeeder, a Web site that produces recommendations for products like shoes, clothing and accessories based on inferences about people’s fashion preferences.

Time said it plans to fold StyleFeeder into its InStyle division, using its technology to power e-commerce on the InStyle.com Web site.

That site already offers a host of interactive features. On the home page today, for instance, users are invited to upload a picture of themselves to see how they would look with their hair made up in the outsized blonde bob sported by pop singer Lady Gaga.

Then in the “Hollywood Makeover” section, visitors can pour through the hair and makeup choices of a galaxy of entertainment industry notables.

It also offers a shopping section, where StyleFeeder will find a home once its technology is integrated into the site.

“This is a strategic step in building on our digital success,” Fran Hauser, president of digital for Time Inc.’s Style and Entertainment Group, said in a statement.

Time Inc., a division of media conglomerate Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), has been reeling from the drop off in advertising revenue that has sapped the larger publishing industry. In the third quarter of 2009, Time Warner’s publishing division, which includes Time Inc., saw its ad revenue drop 22 percent, or $129 million, from the same quarter last year, while subscription revenues fell 13 percent, or $49 million, over the same period.

The acquisition of StyleFeeder to build out a fledgling e-commerce business aims to carve out an additional source of revenue for the struggling division.

“StyleFeeder’s e-commerce technology will open the door to new transactional revenue streams and give the InStyle community an experience they can’t find anywhere else online,” Hauser said.

As StyleFeeder users browse the Web, the service bookmarks the shopping pages they have looked visited and publishes them in what it calls a StyleFeed, which they can choose to share with their friends.

StyleFeeder offers widgets that users can embed on their blog sites or social networking profiles. It also has some social capabilities built into its own site, connecting users with similar fashion tastes.

StyleFeeder culls product listings from thousands of retail partners around the Web to generate recommendations. To date, the startup has amassed a catalog of more than 14 million products.

StyleFeeder boasts more than one million registered users and more than 600,000 monthly unique visitors, according to data from online metrics firm comScore.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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