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NetRatings buys DoubleClick research tool

The Internet research company acquires @plan for about $18.5 million in cash and stock, cementing its efforts to provide Web measurement services.

Internet research company NetRatings has acquired DoubleClick's @plan, an online media planning and research tool, for about $18.5 million in cash and stock, the companies said Monday.

Under the agreement, Net marketing company DoubleClick will license @plan and NetRatings research for its ad management products and services in a multiyear deal.

The deal marks a sharpening delineation in the hard-hit online advertising market, in which NetRatings and DoubleClick have emerged as two of the strongest survivors. NetRatings' chief competitor, Jupiter Media Metrix, has struggled amid a cash crunch, while many of DoubleClick's rivals have folded because of the dot-com contraction.

For NetRatings, Monday's agreement helps to advance its interests in providing Web measurement services to the interactive advertising industry. Last month, NetRatings purchased Jupiter Media Metrix's AdRelevance advertising research division for about $8 million. With @plan, NetRatings has extended its reach with the acquisition of more than 200 clients.

For New York-based DoubleClick, the deal helps to solidify its focus on providing advertising technology to Net publishers and marketers. Under its licensing agreement, DoubleClick will fold in NetRatings and @plan research into its DART and MediaVisor ad management products. In addition, the companies will collaborate on the development of reach and frequency campaign planning tools.

@plan provides media research and audience measurement on popular Web sites, making it easy for marketers to plan and place advertisements across multiple sites. Previously, @plan drew on its own proprietary Web statistics, rather than more widely used data from NetRatings or Jupiter Media Metrix. Now the service will combine data from Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet audience-ratings service that NetRatings provides in partnership with Nielsen Media Research.

"This market's actually getting rational about who the right people are to own the tools, data and technology," said Jim Nail, senior analyst at technology research firm Forrester Research.

"DoubleClick is obviously just going to own the technology; (Nielsen/NetRatings) is a longtime provider of Internet research. The tools live on top of the data a lot more intelligently then living in the portfolio of technologies that DoubleClick owns."

In late April, Milpitas, Calif.-based NetRatings reported a first-quarter net loss of $17.7 million, or 54 cents per share, compared with a loss of $3.4 million, or 10 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue also fell to $4.3 million from $6.7 million the year before.

DoubleClick also reported in April a first-quarter net loss of $6 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with a loss of $60.4 million, or 48 cents a share, last year. But the company reported that it earned an operating profit of $1.4 million, or 1 cent a share, compared with an operating loss in the year-ago quarter of $10.5 million, or 8 cents a share.