CMGI. Say the name and many now think of online marketing and commerce.
That's just fine for David Wetherell, the force behind the Andover, Mass.-based company that has invested in or launched more than 45 portals, e-commerce companies, Internet technology companies and online ad services companies since 1995.
Mr. Wetherell in 1986 bought the humble College Marketing Group Inc., a provider of mailing lists to textbook publishers. Thanks to an aggressive acquisition strategy and the vision of an Internet-based economy, Mr. Wetherell recast CMGI as a competitor to the likes of DoubleClick, Yahoo! and even Microsoft Corp.
Last month alone, the company relaunched AltaVista, the search engine-turned portal it acquired from Compaq Computer Corp. earlier this year, and started a new portal, MyWay.com, to provide personalized information, commerce and services. It bought Flycast Communications Corp., which sells aggregated ad inventory across a network of Web sites, as well as several other companies that enable online advertising, including AdForce, AdKnowledge and 1stUp.com.
What's miraculous about Mr. Wetherell is his foresight, says William White, exec VP-marketing and corporate communications for CMGI. "David's vision is to have the largest reach on the Web and monetize that reach better than anyone else," Mr. White says. "Our goal, and David's vision, is to build interactive marketing services and infrastructure to generate revenue across that reach."
`IMPORTANCE OF EYEBALLS'
Mr. White added that Mr. Wetherell's direct-marketing background has shaped his strategy for CMGI. Because of Mr. Wetherell, CMGI has always viewed the Web as an advertising-based medium. "We build services and technologies that are understood and accepted by the advertising and direct-response community," he says, adding that Mr. Wetherell's philosophy about online media has always been a bit ahead of its time. "In 1997, David used to talk about the importance of eyeballs. We all thought he was crazy." Now, the interactive advertising industry is consumed with attracting eyeballs, he says. "That shows what a visionary he is."
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.