Clickshare Demo Suspended, Its Future In Doubt

By: Steve Outing

Clickshare, a microtransactions system aimed at serving publishers wishing to sell information content on the World Wide Web, has been shut down -- at least temporarily -- while the owners of the technology regroup. The company has been suffering through some serious squabbles among its founders and shareholders, which put the technology in limbo. Last week, the officers and board of directors of Clickshare Corp. disbanded and the demonstration site for Clickshare was suspended. (A Clickshare Web site continues to be online, describing the concept.)

The concept may not be dead, however, and the owners of the technology that Clickshare was using still hope to get the concept to the Internet publishing marketplace. But that won't be easy.

Clickshare is a "distributed user management system" for the World Wide Web which enables micropayments, audience measurement by identified user, personalization and site-access control. The concept is that consumers get a single name and password that enables them to purchase information at any affiliate Web site, and be billed on a single invoice (credit card, phone company, cable operator, newspaper of Internet provider) via Clickshare's aggregation service. The service had been running on a prototype involving about 2,000 users.

Too early to market?

Bill Densmore, who was on the Clickshare Corp. board of directors and is president of Newshare Corp., retains his optimism that the Clickshare concept may someday come to market. His Newshare Corp. owns the "token validation service" that is the base of the Clickshare service. Clickshare Corp. for the last year has had an interim agreement with Newshare Corp. allowing Clickshare to demonstrate the technology, and Clickshare programmers have been enhancing the core technology. That agreement ends later this month, at which time Clickshare will no longer have rights to demonstrate the core technology.

Apparently, it was that complicated structure that set the stage for infighting among Clickshare's founders -- some of whom also are shareholders in Newshare Corp. -- and which ultimately led to divorce among the founders. Says Densmore of the company's personnel troubles, "Sometimes people problems overshadow everybody's best efforts to work around them."

Densmore believes that the Clickshare concept was ahead of its time. "We have pursued a technology and market that is not mature yet," he says. "The best thing may be to lay back and wait awhile."

Once the agreement between the two companies expires and Newshare has sole rights to the initial technology, Densmore says, the company will decide on its next course of action. That might be to put the core technology up for sale; license the software to one or more other companies; partner with another company to develop the concept by engineering new software; or abandon the project entirely. He says that resurrecting Clickshare Corp. remains a future possibility.

There's some confusion about Clickshare's status as being "for sale" due to a Web site page produced by Felix Kramer, a Clickshare stockholder and former Clickshare executive. On Kramer's "Clickshare For Sale" page, he says that several Clickshare shareholders have been authorized to act as commissioned agents in finding buyers for the company or the technology. But Densmore says that the statement on Kramer's Web page indicating that Clickshare is for sale is Kramer's personal statement, and does not carry the endorsement of Clickshare's now disbanded board. (See the Clickshare board's official statement.) Since Clickshare Corp. doesn't own the core technology but rather licenses it, Clickshare Corp. can't sell it, he says.

Fits and starts

Densmore says that he "was amazed at how much notice we got in the last two years" among Internet publishers over the Clickshare concept. The operation was funded entirely by a group of about 15 private investors, with no venture capital funding recorded. It may have been that lack of corporate investment that made it difficult to gain serious ground, however, and bring the concept to market quickly.

Internet microtransactions is a difficult industry to operate in, Densmore points out, with most of the major players in the field -- such as First Virtual, CyberCash and others -- having lost many millions of dollars to date. "Nobody has figured this out yet," he says of the search for a profitable business model in microtransactions. Clickshare lost "well under $1 million" in its to-date efforts.

"We were too early with a great idea," Densmore says. Whether his group will make it to deployment of a microtransactions service for publishers is open to question, "but we're still going to try."

Contact: Bill Densmore,

There is hope for profitability

In a recent conversation with USA Today's top online executive, Lorraine Cichowski, she boasted that USA Today Online was profitable during the last month of 1996 -- although not for the full year. A rush of spending by advertisers late in the quarter helped the well-staffed newspaper online service go into the black for December. Cichowski believes that ad agencies had some unspent money at year-end that they placed on the Web, which boosted her site's numbers.

The USA Today site continues to be one of the busiest news sites on the Web. It typically gets 17 million hits a day, which translates to 2 million page views and about 400,000 unique visitors. The service had a total of 84 advertisers during 1996.

USA Today also is adding to its efforts to "push" content to consumers, with an alliance announced this week with inCommon, developers of the push delivery system called DownTown. DownTown will deliver online content to subscribers via on-screen channel bars that will include such content as news headlines from the Web site, sports scores and weather forecasts. USA Today is already working with Netscape's Inbox Direct program (delivery of HTML documents as e-mail), Berkeley Systems' AfterDark screensaver (a PointCast-like news delivery service), Traveling Software, Freeloader and MyWay.

Indianapolis site seeks basketball cross-links

The Indianapolis (Indiana) Star & News is creating a special Web site for when the city hosts the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, March 29-31. The Road to Indianapolis site will include a directory of information about the city, tournament, related events and things to do; features about college basketball's top personalities and teams; game coverage and college basketball news from around the U.S.; and interactive message boards which will be active during the tournament.

Online services editor Jay Small is seeking online newspaper services and other niche Web services for cross-links with The Road To Indianapolis site.

Contact: Jay Small,


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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