DoubleClick, Topica Sign E-Mail Deal

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DoubleClick Inc. last week signed a deal with e-mail newsletter firm Topica Inc., San Francisco, to expand its e-mail marketing capability.


"We know a lot about e-mail content and advertising, which is an area they are starting to ramp up," said Ariel Poler, Topica chairman and founder, who added that DoubleClick made an unspecified equity investment in Topica as part of the deal.


Last year, DoubleClick said it planned to debut e-mail marketing products called Dartmail, which is designed to let the New York company manage advertising on e-mail messages similar to how it places and serves banner ads on the Internet.


Under the new pact between the companies, DoubleClick and Topica plan to develop an opt-in e-mail list that DoubleClick will manage. Topica bought 500 million banners on DoubleClick's Sonar ad network, a set of Web sites that depart from DoubleClick's predominant Web strategy by selling banner space to lower-traffic sites on a nonexclusive basis.


Topica expects the banners to drive new members to www.topica.com. The site tempts visitors into joining any of tens of thousands of e-mail lists on topics from antiques and crop reports to mountain biking and the lost city of Atlantis. Most visitors who join end up signing onto more than one list. The company mails more than 250 million monthly e-mails to a 10 million-strong subscription base.


Topica does not collect detailed information on individual registrants. But its range of highly specific topics is part of what appeals to DoubleClick, said Eli Chalfin, the ad network's vice president and general manager of direct response.


"They're tight constituencies of people. These are people who have specific affinities in a specific psychographic interest," Chalfin said. He also sees Topica's decision to let DoubleClick manage its lists as a validation of Dartmail's services. DoubleClick will rent the lists to advertisers.


"They could have used [CMGI's] yesmail or NetCreations or any of the other players out there, but they chose to work with us," he said.


Such arrangements operate as revenue-sharing deals, but Chalfin would not specify how ad sales will be divided between the companies. Topica will continue to maintain its own sales force.


The 500 million impressions to the Sonar network might prove a boon in their own right. When DoubleClick introduced the network in late January, it projected that Sonar would surpass 2 billion monthly impressions before the end of the first quarter. The network was serving 75 advertisers across 350 sites at the end of the first quarter.


DoubleClick designed Sonar to appeal to direct marketers because it reaches sites other than the high-traffic, marquee Web destinations for which larger DoubleClick ad networks are better-known.


Big Internet advertising companies see big stakes in the e-mail marketing arena, a market that Forrester Research projects will swell to $4.8 billion by 2004. Currently, e-mail accounts for only about 5 percent of all online ad revenue.


Topica's Poler has known DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Connor since 1995. The two companies have been hammering out their new deal for three or four months, Poler said.
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