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I/Pro looks for leadership

Internet Profiles, the first company to offer third-party measurement of Web site traffic, is looking for a new CEO.

Beset by months of bad news, Internet Profiles, the first company to offer third-party measurement of Web site traffic, is looking for a new CEO.

Mark Ashida, who joined I/Pro in January to bring in professional management, announced today that he will step down effective March 1 but continue to represent I/Pro in business matters. The company has hired an executive recruitment firm to assist board member and venture capitalist John Moragne find a new CEO with strong operations skills.

"Part of what he had to do was to be involved in layoffs," said Dave Carlick of Poppe Tyson, an I/Pro board member who has assumed the role of chairman, a title previously held by founder Ariel Poler. "That created such a sense of internal distress that we felt we would be better served to bring in a new CEO."

From just over 100 employees in August, I/Pro today has 69 after two rounds of layoffs. Carlick said additional jobs in I/Pro's back-end processing may be cut as the company automates its procedures for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data to clients.

"Yes, we overhired and we had our marketing plate too full and had to pull back," Carlick said. "But our mainline business is better than ever, and prospects are great. We're recovering from a couple if miscues on our part; not fundamental problems."

I/Pro said it has more than $8 million in the bank and record sales last month, up 500 percent since January. It claims its clients account for 80 percent of Web advertising, including Yahoo, Netscape Communications, CBS, and the Chicago Tribune.

Even so, its competitors, including NetCount, are likely to use the continuing turmoil at I/Pro to woo customers.

In the past two months, I/Pro has eliminated its universal user registration system, I/Code, and experienced several waves of departures--some layoffs, some voluntary. This fall, Poler stepped back from day-to-day operations. His future role also remains unclear, though he says he will not return to active management.

Among the departed are Michael Tchong, whose CyberAtlas site of Web marketing links were acquired by I/Pro in June, and several members of the marketing staff. Stephen Klein, who joined I/Pro in June as vice president of marketing, left then in protest.

I/Pro's prospects took another hit Friday, when a coalition of major advertisers and ad agencies recommended that companies that measure Web site traffic should not also audit those numbers. Because I/Pro offers both services, the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment (CASIE) could force I/Pro to alter its approach.

Carlick questioned whether CASIE's pronouncement is likely to emerge as a Web standard but added: "The long-run market for measurement and analysis is more significant and compelling than the market for auditing. If I/Pro ultimately had to choose, we will take that into serious consideration."

However, today's statement suggested that the board has no fundamental changes in mind.

I/Pro also admitted that its reports to clients have not always been timely, a complaint from advertisers and Web publishers. I/Pro has moved to automate the reporting process with the help of Woody Hobs, former chief information officer of Charles Schwab, which led in part to the recent layoffs.