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CMGI: yesmail Data Will Stay Separate

CMGI Inc. said this week that it will safeguard the trove of private consumer data held by yesmail.com after it acquires the e-mail marketing firm. And CMGI added it doesn’t expect yesmail’s business to conflict with the existing e-mail operations of another company slated to come under its control – ad network Flycast Communications Corp.

Internet holding and venture giant CMGI, Andover, MA, agreed to buy e-mail marketing firm yesmail for $520 million in stock, saying the smaller firm’s outbound e-mail capabilities will fill the last major hole in its marketing arsenal. CMGI already owns or has agreed to buy majority stakes in more than 50 companies, including most recently ad network Flycast, ad management firm AdForce Inc. and Engage Technologies Inc., which makes customer profile technology.

yesmail, Vernon Hills, IL, has demographic information on more than 4 million people who signed up for promotional e-mails. Software made by Engage, also of Andover, helps Web sites make the right marketing pitches to visitors. Engage’s database holds more than 35 million user profiles. Naturally, cross-referencing those sets of data could make both companies more effective. But privacy concerns prohibit the firms from sharing individual consumer data, said yesmail CEO Dave Tolmie.

“We will not have access to any individual consumer files from Engage,” he said. “There may be some opportunities going forward to use aggregated information about certain consumer types … but today, it’s a priority to maintain that hard wall between the two.”

David Andonian, CMGI president of corporate development, agreed that yesmail might get access to Engage information on groups of anonymous consumers. For example, yesmail might learn from Engage how car buyers behave when they’re shopping online. He said CMGI lacks any concrete plans on how such data exchanges would take place.

Meanwhile, Andonian said the yesmail acquisition would not force a shift in Flycast’s e-mail operations. Flycast formed an e-mail division called eDispatch in August. The division began serving ad banners onto e-mail publications such as newsletters. Andonian said the targeted, outbound

e-mails sold by yesmail will not overlap with Flycast’s business.

Before CMGI agreed to buy Flycast, the ad network said it planned to introduce other services through eDispatch, including e-mail name-gathering, list management and outbound e-mail marketing.

Flycast had been in its own discussions with yesmail when it announced the eDispatch strategy, said Larry Braitman, Flycast co-founder. “We intended to roll that out through partners, and we believed they were the best company out there doing it. We’re very excited to have them as part of the CMGI fold, and we’ll be, I’m sure, announcing something shortly.”

The transaction between CMGI and yesmail is expected to close in March, pending regulatory and shareholder approval. The Flycast buy is slated to close in January.

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