Productopia, a San Francisco-based product information and buying advice source, today announced an agreement with America Online to make Productopia's product guides available in the shopping areas of AOL, AOL.com, Netscape Netcenter and CompuServe.
"It's a pretty huge deal and a great validation of the role we play in the shopping process," said Productopia vice president of brand marketing Mark Brutten. He said the contract with Dulles, Va.-based AOL precludes any discussion of its terms.
Productopia's editors create buying guides that explain what features to look for in various products--ranging from apparel to electronics to sporting goods--and how to evaluate quality. Productopia recommends the best products at different price points. The company emphasizes that its Product Picks are based solely on merit, never on paid placements or other business relationships.
The www.productopia.com site includes a Where to Buy commerce bar that has links to both e-commerce sites and local stores. Productopia sells primary and secondary placement in the commerce bar, either for a flat fee or for a fee plus payment for click-throughs. It also sells banner advertising on its site.
On the AOL properties, AOL's merchant partners will be featured in the Where to Buy section, and AOL will handle those placements. For example, AOL now can offer paid placement in its Where to Buy section to a merchant that carries a running shoe recommended by Productopia.
This represents a departure for AOL. Rather than selling product placements, it will feature products chosen by an objective third party, then sell placements to vendors carrying those products. "They've started to explore alternative models," said Roger Neal, president and CEO of Productopia. n