NEW MEDIA: Virgin net books push

Virgin is to set up an online book store as part of its pounds 50m investment in internet services announced last week.

Virgin is to set up an online book store as part of its pounds 50m

investment in internet services announced last week.



The move is designed to raise the profile of Virgin Publishing, a

subsidiary of the Virgin Media Group, which publishes around 200 titles

a year.



Created by new-media agency Omniscience, the Virgin Books site will go

online in April. Virgin Publishing’s sales and logistics manager Michael

Ridgway says it aims to attract visitors through their special interests

rather than a general interest in books.



The site will be divided into five content areas - sport, music, people,

erotica and entertainment - and Virgin has registered with search

engines to create links from relevant areas of the internet to its own

site.



For example, if someone is searching for information on the World Cup,

they might find a link to the Virgin Books sports site.



Virgin believes the fact that it is both a book publisher and retailer

gives it an advantage over specific publishers’ sites or online

booksellers such as Amazon.com.



Visitors to Virgin Book’s site, located at www.virgin-books.com, can

have online chats with authors, read reviews and submit their own

opinions. There will be prizes and competitions, and opportunities to

’add’ chapters to books interactively.



Richard Branson last week confirmed Virgin’s plans to offer free

internet access via its Virgin Net ISP and invest heavily in the medium.

He said Virgin Net would help to link the various parts of group through

cross-promotion and that virtually every part of the Virgin group would

have some form of e-commerce facility by the end of 1999.



Virgin Net subscribers may be offered deals on Virgin Atlantic

flights.



Other plans include a Virgin Net loyalty card, which will give users

discounts on Virgin products and services.



Online marketing for the books site will include banner ads. Virgin will

also use the site proactively as a direct marketing tool for forthcoming

releases. It will build up a database of information on visitors’

interests and e-mail news of relevant book launches. Customers will also

be able to build up loyalty points, in what Virgin claims is the first

loyalty scheme offered by a book publisher.



The book sales site will not, however, be promoted on Virgin Net, which

has existing relationships with US publishers Amazon.com and Barnes &

Noble.



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