NI hires Conchango to boost retail activity on websites

News International has hired digital agency Conchango in a bid to boost its retail activity online.

Conchango, which has a pedigree in e-commerce websites, is to investigate how retail can be introduced across the NI's range of websites.

Developments are at an early stage, but News International confirmed it was working with Conchango, although it refused to go into detail, while Conchango declined to comment.

The Sun's website has a wide-ranging shop that sells goods from CDs to fashion. The Times Online has no retail section, but Conchango is believed to be looking at how News International can extend its use of retail, which currently relies on a relationship with online shopping provider eDirectory.

News International views retail as a key plank in its online strategy, according to a source. And such a strategy is already being investigated at magazine publisher Emap, which sees e-commerce as a natural spin-off from titles such as Grazia. Emap sites will launch e-commerce stores this year as part of its three-pronged digital strategy dubbed "content, community and commerce". Hello! magazine is also exploring the possibilities.

Steve Thomson, managing director of consumer products and retail at research firm GfK NOP, said that e-commerce could provide News International with a valuable revenue stream if handled correctly.

Thomson said: "News International has very strong brands and the strong attachment readers have can spill over into other activities. This, however, won't be enough in itself. News International needs to work out what type of products suit the separate brands.

"For example, there's no reason why The Sun doing digital downloads wouldn't work. The Sun writes a lot about music and entertainment, so it would have credibility in this area.

"The Sunday Times already has a wine club, and food and drink would have a good resonance with its readers. It has always taken food and drink seriously and has the top writers in this area."

But Thomson warned that advertisers could be put off should NI take the direct retail route. He said: "It could potentially put off advertisers if they sell goods in the wrong areas, and wouldn't work if it simply offers goods that are available on existing channels at a better rate."

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