October 4, 2011, 10:41 AM

Kaboodle and StyleSpot fashion a merger

The content-heavy apparel sites are looking to reverse declines in web traffic.

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Hearst Corp.’s Kaboodle Inc. and Idealab-backed StyleSpot, two sites that offer content designed to send apparel-shopping women to online retailers, have merged their operations. The new company is called Image Network Inc. The merged companies say they aim to reverse what have been sharp declines in web traffic over the past year as measured by Compete Inc.

“Combining Kaboodle’s community with StyleSpot’s content will allow us to reach more women and serve their shopping needs even better than before,” says Rafi Gordon, who co-founded Style Spot in 2009 with Alex Amin.

Gordon and Amin will work as co-CEOs of the new company, of which Hearst is the largest shareholder. Steven Chien, the chief operating officer of Kaboodle, will report to Gordon. Kaboodle CEO Anne Zehren left Kaboodle “a number of weeks ago,” according to Amin, who declines to comment on her departure. He also declines to comment on whether the merger would result in any employee layoffs, citing a company policy of not commenting on personnel matters.

In making the merger announcement, the companies said Kaboodle and StyleSpot will continue to operate as separate web sites while sharing each other’s content, user community and technology.

Kaboodle claims 900,000 registered users that have curated and commented on some 10 million products, which visitors can click to purchase at retail e-commerce sites. StyleSpot, backed by business incubator firm Idealab, publishes editorial content about apparel fashions and says it offers an online shopping engine that features nearly 1 million products from 300 retailers.

“StyleSpot’s distribution platform spans mobile, web, social and e-mail, and enables the company to deliver personalized product recommendations and compelling, monetizable shopping content very efficiently,” Gordon says. “Combining Kaboodle’s community with StyleSpot’s content and commerce platform will allow us to reach more women and serve their shopping needs even better than before.”

Since August 2010, StyleSpot and Kaboodle have each experienced declines of more than 50%  in the number of unique visitors, according to web measurement firm Compete. Compete notes that Kaboodle’s traffic dropped by 63.7% to 1,625,342 unique visitors in August 2011 from 4,477,512 a year earlier; over the same period, it says that StyleSpot’s traffic (which it says is a rough estimate because of the small same size) declined 51.8% to 10,349 unique visitors from 21,479. Figures on unique monthly visitors count only once each individual visitor to a site, regardless of how many times the same visitor came to the site.

To address the declining traffic, Image Network will soon announce new shopping features and explain how they “will benefit fashion enthusiasts and online shoppers,” Amin says. He declines to provide further details.

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