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DoubleClick snaps up struggling ASP MessageMedia

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In a deal that further distances it from its ad network roots, DoubleClick Inc. will buy MessageMedia Inc. for $41 million in stock.

DoubleClick is most interested in adding MessageMedia’s self-service application service provider platforms, technologies it’s been lacking in its bid to become a complete e-mail marketing software and services company. New York-based DoubleClick also wants MessageMedia’s for its European business. Louisville, Colo.-based MessageMedia has a small but thriving Paris-based practice.

Like its competitors, DoubleClick is keen on developing its overseas operations to help offset slowing business in the U.S.

"This accelerates our entry into [Europe] by six to 12 months," said Court Cunningham, VP-general manager of DoubleClick’s DartMail division.

For MessageMedia, the deal saves it from a grim future. The company, which has halved its work force to 250, has seen its stock price tumble to the 25 cent to 65 cent range, off a 52-week high of $7 and an all-time high of $19. Wall Street, meanwhile, has pegged DoubleClick as a survivor, in good part because of its $800 million war chest.

"The financial resources of DoubleClick are vastly superior to ours," said Richard Hurwitz, VP-marketing for MessageMedia. "From our perspective, it gives us an opportunity to meet the needs of our clients by being able to offer them a full range of services going forward."

Going full-service

DoubleClick has done much in recent months to build up its self-service ASP e-mail messaging technologies, mostly by developing its proprietary DartMail technology and acquiring FloNetwork Inc. Notably missing, however, has been a full-service ASP e-mail marketing platform.

"What MessageMedia does is round out our suite," Cunningham said. DoubleClick will integrate MessageMedia’s flagship full-service software, the MP3Platform, into its DartMail and FloNetwork technologies. It hasn’t been decided whether the MessageMedia name will be retained, Cunningham said.

The FloNetwork moniker, which had more brand cachet than MessageMedia’s, is being phased out and replaced with the DoubleClick name.

In the coming weeks, MessageMedia’s remaining employees will relocate to the Broomfield, Colo., headquarters of DoubleClick division Abacus. The two divisions will do a lot of work together to build DoubleClick’s list businesses.

What is less certain is how the acquisition will bolster DoubleClick’s much-discussed b-to-b marketing ambitions. While MessageMedia’s client base does include b-to-b giants such as Cisco Systems Inc., most of its customers are consumer-oriented.

For his part, Cunningham is sure the MessageMedia deal will play into DoubleClick’s b-to-b agenda. "B-to-b is really our next push," he said. "Abacus is already doing it. Our list business has a lot of names, and on the tech side we want to do the same. Over the next 12 months, I hope to leverage what’s going on and bring it all together."

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