Q Interactive Buys Postmaster Direct, Growing E-Mail Ad Network

Q Interactive has acquired e-mail list broker Postmaster Direct. The purchase consists of a database of 11 million users, intellectual property that includes a patent on double opt-in e-mail marketing, and publisher and advertiser contracts.

Postmaster Direct was previously owned by market research firm Authentic Response. Before that it belonged to deliverability firm Return Path, which spun it off as part of Authentic Response when it created the firm in fall 2008. Earlier Postmaster Direct was a unit of NetCreations, which was bought by Return Path in 2004. The companies would not disclose the value of the deal.

According to Q Interactive CEO Matt Wise, it made sense for the company to buy the unit because it has positioned itself as an e-mail audience aggregator. “The concept of an ad network is our sweet spot,” he said. “It’s what we do best.”

Q Interactive will add the Postmaster Direct database to its opt-in e-mail ad network, and will continue to operate Postmaster Direct as a separate brand. Publisher partners can choose whether to work with Q Interactive’s e-mail list brokerage services or with the Postmaster Direct service.

“We will have two sets of consumers in our e-mail database. Some who are double opt-in and some who are single opt-in,” Wise said. He added, “When you receive an e-mail from Q, you’ll always know which brand you received it from.”

Postmaster Direct’s double opt-in database is adding approximately 300,000 new names a month, according to Wise, who said he does not know the attrition rate. Wise expects to accelerate that growth through wider publisher distribution and improved ad targeting.

Q Interactive’s publisher partners include About.com, AOL, and the Weather Channel. For Postmaster Direct, the best known is CNET. In the past year, Postmaster Direct has had approximately 100 advertiser agreements.

The value of Postmaster Direct’s patent on double opt-in is not entirely clear. Double opt-in requires that consumers confirm via e-mail that they wish to receive mailings from a sender, thus protecting them from sign-ups by others. It was once the highest standard of e-mail list building. But it may be losing credence with some marketers.

Writing on ClickZ earlier this year, Email Data Source founder Bill McClosky argued the practice is no longer relevant to serious list builders since confirmation e-mails can appear as spam, and indeed are often spoofed as part of phishing scams.

“If you ask an e-mail marketer working with a client who demands a double opt-in on their programs, they’ll tell you the sad truth: double opt-ins make it nearly impossible to grow your list,” McClosky wrote.

The 34 comments on his column expressed a roughly even divide in sentiment between enthusiasm and outcry.

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