Think Partnership Takes Controlling Stake in Contextual Company

Think Partnership, which owns SEM firm WebSourced, signed a deal to acquire a majority share in Crystal Reference Systems, a company whose technologies have implications for contextual targeting.

Crystal Reference has two divisions, Crystal Reference and Crystal Semantics. The former provides academic reference material to schools and media outlets, including A&E’s Biography and History Channels.

The latter uses statistical algorithms to bring contextual relevance to ads targeted on any given Web page. It works by analyzing all the words on a page to guess the specific meaning of the page, which can then be used to target offers. This “Sense Engine,” as the company calls it, can be put to service for Think’s WebSourced unit and perhaps its Primary Ads and KowaBunga! affiliate marketing subsidiaries.

“We’ll… create synergies among each of the companies,” said Xavier Hermosillo, a director at Think who initiated the deal. “We don’t run any company. We don’t run WebSourced, and we certainly aren’t going to run Crystal Reference.”

Hermosillo said Think would consider licensing the technology to other companies. “It’s going to be interesting to see where the value is: to search engines, to competitors, to smaller companies,” he said. “We’re open to helping and working with for whomever is interested in developing the technology.”

Think will initially acquire 51 percent of the company for $1.4 million cash and stock worth $153,000. The deal includes an option to buy the remaining 49 percent at a later date.

Crystal Reference chairman David Crystal is a linguist and editor of encyclopedias who was honored with the Queen’s Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the study of language. He’ll stay with the company.

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