DoubleClick Sells E-Mail List Services Unit

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DoubleClick ended months of speculation this week concerning the future of its e-mail list services division by announcing it had sold the unit to database concern infoUSA for an undisclosed sum.


Under the deal, the accounts and their managers will move to Walter Karl, infoUSA's list management business. Also under the deal, DoubleClick has a five-year exclusive agreement with infoUSA for DoubleClick's DARTmail product to deliver e-mail for the unit.


"It's obviously a very good deal for DoubleClick," said Michael Mayor, president/CEO of list management firm NetCreations, New York. "They sell the ball club but keep the stadium and make the new owners play in it for five years."


Mayor said it also is a good sign for the e-mail list industry "that a major offline list broker like Walter Karl sees a rebound in business-to-consumer e-mail list brokerage ... as do we."


Indeed, as dot-coms imploded and the economy slipped into a recession, the business-to-consumer e-mail list business took a particularly hard beating -- so hard that BTC e-mail concern YesMail announced in August that it was repositioning itself from providing e-mail prospecting services to providing customer retention and acquisition services. To that end, YesMail acquired Post Communications, the e-mail marketing arm of bankrupt loyalty firm Netcentives Inc., for $2 million in December.


However, rumors of BTC e-mail's death are greatly exaggerated, said Ed Mallin, president of Walter Karl, Pearl River, NY.


"I think we see some strength coming back there," Mallin said. "I think we're poised for some pretty strong upswing over the next year or so."


Rumors had been circulating for months that DoubleClick, New York, was shopping its e-mail list services division around as it transforms itself from an advertising services company to a marketing technology firm.


"As evident by our transactions over the last year, DoubleClick is focused on building out its e-mail technology offerings," Court Cunningham, DoubleClick's vice president and general manager of DARTmail, said in a statement. "This transaction allows us to continue to focus on building our technology capabilities while also continuing to serve all e-mail messages for the list services business through our five-year relationship with infoUSA."


DoubleClick's e-mail services unit manages 45 e-mail lists consisting of 40 million names.


Earlier this year, it was also rumored that DoubleClick's e-mail list brokers were informed that their jobs were safe through the first quarter of 2002 but that many of them were quietly looking for work elsewhere. One has since left.


DoubleClick's e-mail services unit employs 19 people. Walter Karl will take 12, some of whom are former traditional direct mail list managers. They will move to an office Walter Karl has in lower Manhattan.


"The majority of the rest will probably be absorbed by DoubleClick, but we're still working through that," said DoubleClick vice president Nancy Joyce.


Joyce said DoubleClick's list owner clients will notice little change.


"The data's going to be housed in the same place, the deployment process is going to be exactly the same and most of the account management will stay the same," Joyce said. "For our list owner clients, the turnover will be seamless."


Walter Karl has had an interactive division for two years. It already has 30 million e-mail names under management. The deal with DoubleClick will bring the total to 70 million. infoUSA, Omaha, NE, also will become the first customer of DoubleClick's list selector, a DARTmail module that the company claims enables list owners and managers to perform real time counts, to reserve inventory and to deliver advertiser-specific reporting and billing.


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