December 3, 1997 2:20 PM PST

GeoCities, Amazon team up

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As the holidays approach and the online retail race heats up, the name of the game seems to be "Let's Make a Partnership Deal."

The latest such alliance involves private Netizens selling books to each other, through a partnership deal announced today between Net bookseller and online mega-community GeoCities.

Under the terms of the agreement, Amazon will be an anchor tenant in GeoCities' MarketPlace area, joining online retailers CDNow and Auto-By-Tel. More significantly, however, GeoCities and Amazon will join forces in comarketing efforts to get GeoCitizens to sell Amazon's books, as part of the bookseller's Associates program. Amazon books also will be offered by topic throughout the GeoCities community.

The move represents a departure for GeoCities, which until now has prohibited its members, known as "homesteaders," from engaging in commercial activity through their GeoCities sites, according to Jim Rea, GeoCities' vice president of business development. GeoCities provides free Web sites to members in a community that is broken down into roughly 40 neighborhoods. For example, the Broadway neighborhood is for Netizens interested in theater, musicals, and show business, while the Colosseum covers sports and recreation. Within each neighborhood are ten or so specific topic areas.

"We don't want to get to a place where [GeoCities,] this private publishing space, is an area full of these pockets of commercial activity," Rea said. Rather, the Amazon deal is the first of what he said will be four partnerships that bring sales to various aspects of the GeoCities environment beyond the designated MarketPlace area, to enhance members' experiences and introduce many of them to online commerce. Rea declined to disclose which companies GeoCities is considering; however, he said the other categories would be travel, computers, and music.

"We believe that a lot of people are going to have their first experience with an online transaction this year, and we want it to be a positive experience," Rea said. "We would like to give them an opportunity to see product that is related to their interests."

To that end, along with individual homesteaders having the opportunity to take part in Amazon's Associates program, each topic area will feature relevant books for sale at Amazon.

Amazon's Associates program, which is available to anyone with a Web site and counts among its partners giants such as the Motley Fool, Netscape, and the Wall Street Journal careers site, offers sellers a "referral fee" for the sale of Amazon books. Sellers earn between 5 and 15 percent of the selling price of books, depending on how deeply the books are discounted.

Of course, the deal is ultimately a moneymaking venture for GeoCities, though Rea declined to discuss the financial terms, except to say that GeoCities "will share in some of the proceeds. There is some revenue sharing opportunity here."


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