November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM


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The secret sauce behind Popcuts is software that crunches the numbers on sales of downloaded 99-cent songs and ranks the buyers as trendsetters. The more a song sells, the higher a buyer is ranked as a trend setter and the more she can earn in credits toward additional song purchases. Trendsetting rank and credits are highest for initial buyers, so it pays to be the first to discover and buy good music. “We give music fans a reason to care about how their songs sell,” Lim says.

Popcuts provides a fixed cut for music artists, who are free to share more of their revenue with buyers to stimulate more sales.

“I really like the concept-it’s definitely modern in that it tries to build community both around the music makers and the music consumers,” says Nikki Baird, managing director of research and consulting firm Retail Systems Research LLC.

Baird notes that Popcuts also has room for improvement, such as by leveraging music content already in other social sites like MySpace and by providing better ways to sample music online.

But Popcuts is just beginning, Lim says, and will continue improving the site’s usability and developing social networking opportunities. “We’re not shy about our ambition to fix the gaping hole in how music is sold,” he says. Back to top

Head of the class recently tied with party retailer as the favorite e-commerce site for moms in a survey by Nielsen Online. And dads like David Schofman, who has three young kids, like it, too.

“I’ve been a big fan for years,” says Schofman, a consultant who was formerly head of e-commerce at Callaway Golf Interactive. “I love the balance of education and commerce. The site has very useful, relevant information for parents, and combines that with the ability to purchase most of the products.”

Schofman loves the Word Wizard, an online dictionary that provides definitions and lets the user hear how a word is pronounced. Another feature, especially useful for teachers, lets the user put in the title of a book and move a slider to indicate whether she wants a book that’s easier or harder. The site then provides suggestions. A new feature this fall called First Class supplies materials for first-time teachers.

Nearly 4 million unique visitors per month visit, parents and teachers-who come to learn about books, education and teaching methods. The retailer is adding new resources while it tries to tie sales more closely to information. recently relaunched the video portion of its site and is expanding it to include interviews with authors of books available for sale on the site. “Author chats are very popular with teachers trying to understand products,” says Brian Manning, vice president of e-commerce.

The site launched this year a social networking section for pre-adolescent children called The Stacks and is developing more community features for teachers that will allow them to interact and share materials they use in class, Manning says.

Schofman’s only complaint about is that the site presents too many ads from outside companies on pages aimed at teachers and parents. Manning says Scholastic introduced on-site ads in response to companies advertising in its catalogs that sought web exposure. “We’ve heard from teachers they don’t mind advertising as long as it’s not in places they’re going to use in the classroom,” he says. Back to top

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