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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
E-mail firms seal merger
Detail from FreeQuotes website
FreeQuotes: operations backed with TheStreet.co.uk's database
Dot.com changeling Themutual.net has merged with e-mail specialist KeepAhead in the latest rationalisation among UK survivors of the e-commerce implosion.

Themutual, which has evolved from a service provider to internet community to dot.com marketing firm, said the tie-up would enable better exploitation of a promising market in e-mail advertising.

While revenue from banner advertising has collapsed, with Themutual's finance site FreeQuotes taking 600 in January compared with 20,000 in December 1999, the e-mail advertising market has strengthened, managing director Ben Heaton said.

"E-mail advertising clearly is an effective medium," he told BBC News Online.

"It allows advertisers to target the people they want to, and they are willing to pay for it. They are not willing to pay for banner advertising."

Merger will allow the firms to exploit a combined database of 500,000 subscribers, and pool assets totalling 500,000, a statement on Tuesday said.

Themutual last year paid 226,000 for the 100,000-strong subscriber base of TheStreet.co.uk, the financial information website shut down by its US-based parent company in November.

Shifting strategy

Themutual was originally conceived as a mutually-owned ISP, which would give users shares in the firm as well as an internet connection.

"We saw the valuation Freeserve had at the time, and thought of doing something similar, but returning some of that value to our users," Mr Heaton said.

The firm, which is still offering shares to users, evolved into an internet community but, recognising the collapsing banner advertising market, sought to exploit its database through e-mail marketing.

Themutual, which ran up pre-tax losses of 1.12m between April and October last year, in March announced it had moved into the black.

The firm has attracting e-mail marketing revenues of about 50,000 a month, Mr Heaton said.

Targeted advertising

KeepAhead was launched two years ago by media stalwart Chris Wilcock and database and software expert Keith Parker as an e-mail prompt and news service.

The business invites users to sign up to e-mail newsletters on a range of topics, allowing the formation of a detailed profile of users, and offering advertisers the opportunity to undertake targeted campaigns.

"The chances are if they sign up to an e-mail newsletter on a certain subject, they are going to be interested in things relevant advertisers might have to say," Mr Wilcock told BBC News Online.

In the City, shares in Themutual.net closed unchanged at 0.11p on Tuesday.

The shares closed at 0.75p on 30 June last year, their first day of trading on London's subsidiary Aim market.

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See also:

16 Jul 01 | Business
Lastminute snaps up takeaway site
04 May 01 | Business
End nears for Money Channel
24 Nov 00 | Business
Investors turn cold on UK dot.coms
16 Nov 00 | Business
TheStreet calls time on UK operation
30 Jun 99 | The Company File
Mutual move to cyberspace
01 Jul 99 | The Company File
Freeserve flotation price puzzle
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