MediaPort Closes Up Shop

Despite high-profile investments from three of the largest advertising agency groups, media management startup MediaPort is shutting down after just over a year in operation.

The New York-based company, which had been funded by rival agency conglomerates Interpublic , WPP Group and Omnicom , sought to establish XML-based standards for the buying and selling of all forms of media.

Last year, MediaPort began discussions with major buying agencies and publications about adopting its draft Internet-centric system of buying-, selling- and accounting standards, which theoretically would cut down on the time-consuming process of purchasing media, and would be more functional than formats like Electronic Data Interchange.

Now, however, the project has been scrapped, with its backers continuing to hunt for ways to trim their own losses by cutting Internet investments, said a source at Interpublic close to the firm.

As a result, the holding companies have sold off much of the firm’s assets, and laid off MediaPort’s remaining employees, who include Chief Executive Mike Lotito and Marisa Kabasinskas, who served as vice president of business strategy. Lotito and Kabasinskas did not return requests for comment.

According to sources, the MediaPort name could resurface, as the investors are considering acquiring an outside vendor that has an established product, or at least, is closer to a full-fledged Internet media transaction system than MediaPort had been. One name being discussed is Donovan Data Systems, which operates an variety of ASP-based systems primarily for media invoicing, billing, paying, and accounting, and which already is in use at many major agencies.

Last year, DDS began working closely with the Television Bureau of Advertising and the American Association of Advertising Agencies to promote EDI-based standards of media planning, buying and selling, rather than just accounting. Since then, DDS has acquired MediaOcean, an Atlanta-based media sales technology provider, and been growing its electronic billing service among TV stations.

Betting on Donovan, which has been in business for 35 years, might also be a safer bet for the holding companies than continuing with developing the technology in-house — since new ventures and startups in the media management space have yet to gain serious traction, or have floundered altogether.

In a sign of the electronic media buying sector’s woes, two of the space’s leading competitors, OneMediaPlace and MediaPassage, merged early last year only to go out of business just months later. The assets ultimately were swept up by Valassis , which planned to use the technology in its existing software for online newspaper media planning and purchasing.

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