Best Buy Co. Inc. is growing beyond its retailing roots to become a broadcaster, publisher and ad agency.

The Richfield-based consumer electronics chain has spent the past year quietly creating how-to videos, entertainment features and other content that shows up in stores and online -- and charging manufacturers for the extra advertising.

"It's a win-win for both, depending on how it's being priced," said Doug Stokes, director of consumer insights for Compass Point, the media arm of advertising and marketing firm, Campbell Mithun, which is not involved in the project.

"From a vendor standpoint, you can get an advertising message right at the consumer's decision moment -- they're in the store, they're there to buy a camera or cell phone, and you get one last chance to pitch to them. There's power to that."

Called "Best Buy On," the campaign had its official coming out at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in early December and is making a splash at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Best Buy uses in-house videographers, media buyers and editors to create content and get products prominently placed in them.

For example, a video called "Tech 101: How Motion Gaming Works" is a nearly three-minute video that explains how the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 work. The website provides links to purchasing the dozen products mentioned in the video.

Other topics -- and links to purchase -- include a video on how to use broadband devices, a text-and-photos timeline on the history of 3-D, and a music video with interviews with the Rascal Flatts band.

Sony, Canon and Procter & Gamble have already bought ads, according to Advertising Age. Best Buy said executives were in Las Vegas and unavailable, but spokeswoman Erin Bix described the programming as "another lever our advertising partners can pull with us."

It's unclear how much of a bottom-line booster the advertorials will be. A Best Buy executive told Ad Age that the content could reach a billion people through the retailer's website and 1,100 U.S. stores.

Ways to make people linger

Best Buy is looking for ways to separate itself from the pack of other retailers that are grabbing some of its market share for televisions, computers, mp3 players and e-readers.

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn has said the company aims to offer more choices and to do a better job of taking away some of the confusion consumers have about gadgets and how they work together.

Stokes sees value in the new approach. The videos could make people linger in stores longer or spend time at Best Buy's website doing more than simply comparing prices.

"Consumers are savvy," he said. "They know that stuff is there for a reason and that they're being marketed to. But at the same time ... electronics are so intimidating to so many people. It changes daily, you worry about whether it matters if you buy last year's model or whether it'll be obsolete. If you can arm [consumers] with information, especially in this economy, it's to your advantage."

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335