Clearspring Touts Acquisition As 'Launch Pad'

Jay Rappaport Widget syndicator Clearspring Technologies today is expected to announce the acquisition of bookmarking and content-sharing widget maker AddThis. Jay Rappaport, Clearspring president and chief operating officer, called it a "multi-million dollar" deal, but declined to be more specific.

Clearspring envisions itself as being the de facto universal content-sharing platform for publisher and consumers, according to Rappaport. "This acquisition is the launch pad for a universal sharing service," he said.

With AddThis, Clearspring will serve over 20 billion views per month on sites including MySpace, Time Magazine, ABC and Fox. It will reach more than 200 million unique visitors worldwide, according to internal estimates.

Along with a number of rivals, including ShareThis and Tell-A-Friend, AddThis is placed on Web pages by publishers so their visitors can easily share content with friends.

For the past year, Clearspring has been attempting to expand its widget advertising products and further develop its ad network that spans more than 80 social networking and other sites including MySpace, Facebook and Blogger.

Pre-acquisition, Clearspring tracked over 4 billion widgets monthly, working with marketers that have included Honda, Snapple, Sprint, Disney, the NBA and Blockbuster.

The company is now attempting to capitalize on the user data it has gathered since launching its platform in 2007 to increase efficiency and better target ads. AddThis will only accelerate those ambitions, Rappaport said.

"In the '09 time frame, we'll deploy comprehensive recommendation services for users and advertisers based on our data," he said. "In the meantime, we have to put the two company's infrastructures together, and build out the recommendation platform."

Clearspring's business model speaks to the evolution of Web users as mere content consumers to networkers and content-sharers. Indeed, in August 2008, comScore estimated that social networking users comprised more than 65% of the Web's 860 million unique monthly visitors.

To execute its plans, Clearspring recently raised $18 million in a third round of funding from New Enterprise Associates, Novak Biddle Venture Partners and other investors. The McLean, Va.-based company recently announced that New Enterprise Partner Harry Weller and Capital One co-founder Nigel Morris joined former AOL heavyweights Ted Leonsis, Steve Case and Miles Gilburne on its board of directors. Clearspring has raised a total of $35 million in venture capital to date.

In September, Clearspring partnered with social advertising company SplashCast on the launch of an integrated service designed to help brands and advertisers connect with Web audiences across social networks. SplashCast said it selected Clearspring as its exclusive partner because of the company's widget distribution and analytics capabilities.

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