***Industry Questions DoubleClick-NetCreations Merger
According to the two firms, DoubleClick will acquire NetCreations in a stock swap valued at $191 million. The two New York-based companies claim that the deal will create the industry's largest e-mail list management firm with 22 million e-mail addresses and that the combined e-mail database would consist of both single and double opt-in names.
And therein lies the point of alarm, particularly among anti-spam advocates. NetCreations chairwoman/CEO Rosalind Resnick is well known for being an unyielding proponent of double opt-in e-mail address gathering.
"Our first reaction was one of concern," said Anne Mitchell, director of legal and public affairs at Mail Abuse Prevention Systems LLC, Redwood, CA. "NetCreations in general, and Resnick in particular, have done a good job of steering the course for conscientious companies who want to do the right thing and adopt verified opt-in. DoubleClick, on the other hand, has a history of appearing to put the Internet public's need and desire for privacy second."
Resnick insisted that the merger will not change her views on the importance of double opt-in procedures. According to the terms of the deal, the 15 million members of her company's PostMasterDirect.com database, as well as all new members, would still maintain their double opt-in permission. Going forward, DoubleClick partner sites would have the option of setting a single or double opt-in registration policy.
"Despite the fact that we are going to be part of a company that offers single opt-in, I personally have not changed my view about the highest and best standard for e-mail privacy," she said. "I believe it is still double opt-in."
In addition, the merger would give her a position on DoubleClick's Privacy Advisory Board and the new title of vice president of corporate development for e-mail.
More importantly, Resnick said, she would function as an inside advocate for double opt-in within DoubleClick. "Now that we will be part of them, DoubleClick will extend the reach of double opt-in," she said.
Others, however, doubt the impact that Resnick, despite her passion for the issue, can have inside DoubleClick's corporate walls.
"Unfortunately, Rosalind will be a small cog in a very big wheel," said Rodney Joffe, chairman of Internet think tank Centergate Research Group and a vociferous anti-spam advocate. "I believe she overestimates her ability to affect change in DoubleClick. I wish her well and hope that I'm wrong."
In any case, DoubleClick gains one of, if not, the strongest e-mail list firms and does so at a low price. Under the terms of the agreement, DoubleClick will issue 0.41 shares of DoubleClick common stock for each share of NetCreations common stock. Based on Oct. 2 closing prices, the exchange ratio represents a per share price of $12.15 and a 17 percent premium over NetCreations' 10-day average stock price, according to the announcement.
By comparison, CMGI purchased NetCreations rival yesmail.com for $500 million earlier this year.