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Buy.com emerges with new magazine

After all but vanishing from the e-tail landscape last year, the company is touting a new print magazine. But others have been down that path--with mixed results.

Buy.com, the Web electronics store that almost disappeared from the e-tail landscape last year, said Tuesday that it is launching a magazine that will promote products found on its Web site.

The company said Buy.com Magazine will be published quarterly and will include editorial features.

Buy.com declared in a news release that the magazine is a "first in the e-tailing industry," and company founder Scott Blum added in a statement that he believes the company has "redefined the way e-tailers communicate with their customers."

However, other online merchants have invested in "custom publishing"--and for many, the idea has produced mixed results.

Custom publishing grew white hot two years ago when publications carrying Internet brand names came out, including those of eBay, Garden.com and Pets.com.

Most recently, teen site Alloy Online launched AlloyGirl Magazine, targeting teenagers. The publication features layouts of apparel and jewelry that can be bought from the site. The quarterly magazine also includes articles about fashion, celebrities and dating, and gives quizzes and beauty tips.

Analysts have noted that some of the companies that have made forays into the publishing industry have lost money. Costs can be high, and there is no guarantee of readership.

"Consumers don't care about fluff; they want good prices," said Vernon Keenan, an analyst with San Francisco-based Keenan Vision. Buy.com would be better off buying advertising in a newspaper's Sunday supplement section, something that has paid off for Amazon.com, he said.

Buy.com, which was near insolvency when Blum bought and rescued the company last fall, said the magazine will be mailed to its 5 million customers for free. The company said it has lined up a group of investors that includes Visa International, Cingular Wireless and NEC-Mitsubishi.