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Buying site is latest dot-com casualty

Productopia.com, which provides product information and buying advice, plans to shut down operations tonight, a spokeswoman confirms.

Productopia.com plans to shut down operations tonight, a spokeswoman confirmed late today, the latest casualty in the struggling e-tailing industry.

Spokeswoman Melissa Sheridan was responding to rumors that the Web site, which provides product information and buying advice, was closing. Her comments were made to a CNET News.com editor, who visited the company's San Francisco offices seeking comment. Previous calls to the spokeswoman and company executives went unanswered.

"We're shutting down operations tonight," Sheridan said. "Things are very emotional right now. We won't have a statement tonight, but we may have one by tomorrow."

She would not elaborate on any further details. As of late today, the Web site still was operational.

In January, Productopia announced it had raised $22 million. The company opened for business in July 1999. Investors included CMGI @Ventures, the venture capital arm of CMGI; Bessemer Venture Partners; and RRE Ventures. Individual investors include former Compaq Computer chairman Ben Rosen and former Barnesandnoble.com chief executive Jonathan Bulkeley.

Productopia's management includes executives from America Online, Oracle, the Wall Street Journal, and Ziff-Davis, according to its Web site. Chief executive Roger Neal formerly was executive director and general manager at America Online. Neal also spent five years at Time Warner.

"Productopia gives consumers a new and better way to shop," its Web site reads. Its "free, unbiased product information and advice helps shoppers find products with the quality, value and style they're looking for in more than 600 categories, from appliances to toys."

The company hoped to make money through advertising and by referring customers to other online retailers.

Productopia belongs to a large group of product review sites, including Consumerreview.com, Deja.com, and Consumer Reports Online.

Some consumer product review sites have taken a beating this year, much like the rest of the dot-com consumer market. This year, for example, Deja.com sharply cut its staff and withdrew its plans for an initial public offering.

The number of Special report: End of the Beginning dot-com cutbacks continues to mount. This weekend, Kibu.com confirmed plans to shut down its site, which was geared toward teen-age girls.

Just today, online health site More.com cut more than one-third of its staff to cut costs. Last week, online health site WebMD announced it would eliminate roughly 1,100 jobs as part of a restructuring move in response to several recent acquisitions.

Garden.com, the online seller of everything from plants to hoses, will cut its staff by about 40 percent. Viacom's MTVi will lay off nearly 25 percent of its staff.