On the heels of the frenzy about Amazon.com's co-op policy, PW has learned that its main competitor has tweaked and elaborated on its plans before launching its program.
According to new documents obtained by PW, many of the numbers originally offered by Barnesandnoble.com remain the same (News, Feb. 15), although others have been changed or detailed more specifically.
While Amazon.com has focused on traditional co-op with media like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Barnesandnoble.com has constructed a sophisticated system tailored almost exclusively to online media. (National Public Radio is the only old media offered.)
The highest rate is for a "Brand Boutique." Houses with branded series -- such as the Dummies guides -- can pay for B&N.com to set up a site-within-a-site to promote them. Cost: $10,000 to $25,000 for a three-month period.
Other options include $1000 a week for a top spot in B&N.com's "Gift Center" and $5 a year for a simple "point-of-entry" listing that would allow the publisher to "add content to each one of your book home pages." (One publishing insider commented that "there's no way anyone who's savvy about these things would pay," since "B&N needs to have this information up anyway so they can sell the book.")
The issue that remains most murky is Barnesandnoble.com's relationship with affiliates such as America Online. According to the documents, publishers can pay $1000 for a one-day plug on AOL's sign-off screen (up from $250 in the previous incarnation) and $500 for 24 hours on the Welcome page. In AOL's "What's New" section, a publisher can take a quick-hit ad for a two-hour period, at $250. Title-specific banner ads in affiliate bookstores will cost $250 per title per day, or houses can pay $2000 for two weeks. B&N.com affiliates include CNN, USA Today and Lycos.
But Barnesandnoble.com spokesman Ben Boyd told PW that according to plans "just cemented this week" (the documents were dated several weeks ago) "partner property is not for sale." Instead, he said, the company will take advantage of "sponsorship opportunities. It d sn't cost you any more to do an exclusive on AOL than it d s on Barnes &Noble. If it makes the most sense to bring it onto AOL, then we'll put it there. If it makes the most sense to put it on our site, then we'll put it there."
He said the changes, cloudy as they are, were not made because of media coverage of Barnesandnoble.com or public backlash to stories about Amazon.com's policy. "Do we live in a vacuum? No. Do I think the plans would have been the same? Yes," he said.
Another area that remains unclear is the homepage. Original plans called for $250 per title per day, with a minimum of two days, for placement. But Boyd said that, too, had changed, although he declined to give specifics. It is also unclear whether the "point-of-entry" system has changed.
What he did say was that the company would use a simple color scheme on its site to distinguish between co-op and editorial content. About one-quarter of the site will have a khaki color scheme, signifying "co-op influence." The rest of the site will feature a white background and include only editorial selections.
Asked about the issue of disclosure, Boyd said, "We have a lot of confidence in our editorial voice. We're not going to create 15 pages of explanation like our competitor has done." He was referring, of course, to Amazon.com, which last week launched its disclosure policy with a lengthy FAQ to which customers can click to from the homepage.
One publisher told PW that he liked B&N.com's program better than Amazon's, calling it "more diverse," though he warned that, as with all online co-op, "a lot of this stuff is untested, so it's hard to say how effective it's going to be."