John provided:
CREATIVE STRATEGY,
FLASH ANIMATION,
VIDEO PRODUCTION
& ART DIRECTION

John's primary contribution to iCAST was convincing the Chief Creative Officer and CEO that Flash animation technology was a strategic win for launching a new multimedia company.

The proof was in the proverbial multimedia pudding.

John was given the green light to hire a hot, young team of flash designers only after he successfully produced the company's first award-winning "site of the day."It was a flash-driven, streaming video website featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono when they hosted a week of television on the Mike Douglas Show in 1972.

John also orchestrated an industry first by using Macromedia Generator as the database engine for flash-based multimedia portfolios that filmmakers and musicians
could easily create in order to
showcase their movies and music.
It was a great way to build up the iCAST membership since every member could create a personalized profile to share and promote their multimedia in a highly dynamic and professional manner (see the two screen examples to the right for movies & music).

iCAST was definitely way ahead of its time since it would be several years before
the likes of MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook.

Perhaps the most fun John had
was working with the iCAST sales team and CBS Radio to
create a nation wide "Land Your Band" contest for unknown bands to get a shot
at a major record deal. The result was over 3000 bands getting their music voted on by thousands of iCAST members. The winning band opened up to 25,000 people at Howard Stern's "Dysfunctional
Family Picnic". The 12 hour concert was held at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey and featured bands such as Limp Bizkit, Creed, Godsmack, Stone Temple Pilots, and Ozzy Osborne.



Unfortunately, iCAST fell victim to the dot com crash in the fall of 2000, but it was a valiant effort led by 200 plus mega-talented people.


 

Wired Magazine
The Next Stage for Web Artists
Christopher Jones Feb. 25, 2000

For many artists, promotion and distribution means posters on street lamps and free tapes at the door. But a number of new sites are offering a more tech-savvy approach to showing off their creations, complete with free exhibition space and instant worldwide exposure.

Newcomer iCast, set to launch in early March, could make a splash with would-be filmmakers, musicians, multimedia artists, and their fans.

Conceived by CMGI CEO Dave Wetherell, iCast will be a virtual exhibition space and distribution platform for artists. Geoffrey Miller, senior vice president at iCast, said the site will "blur the lines between professional and up-and-coming artists."

Something like a mix of MP3.com, iFilm, and Geocities, the iCast site will be a massive publishing engine for multimedia content, serving out live and archived audio-video broadcasts to a wide-ranging audience, from high school music fans to Hollywood executives. While the focus will be on music and movies, iCast also has plans to branch out into comedy, sports, fashion, and other areas.



To help artists get off the ground, iCast will provide hundreds of Macromedia Flash templates that can be used to build profiles, including audio and video, of themselves and their work. The content can be reviewed by other members and editors who offer their own insights and highlights.

"Our goal is to have a system with unlimited capacity and a huge number of subscribers," Miller said. "We want to make the individual the creator, sharer, and marketer of content." And with CMGI's considerable war chest behind it, Miller said the company plans to do whatever it takes to build up its online brand.
To help promote the site and draw new talent, iCast has more than 60 representatives at film schools around the United States who will encourage would-be filmmakers to make their work available on the site. ICast will encode any content that artists send to the site, be it VHS tape or analog recordings.



To help people manage content, the company will release an iCaster application, a media player for audio, video, and live streams that includes tools for chat, instant messaging, and searching the Web. The site will initially support Windows Media, and Real Networks shortly thereafter.

After its launch this spring, iCast plans to start working on a Mac version of its iCaster player.

Miller said that Wetherell was a big fan of his previous site, ZineZone -- CMGI's first multimedia site -- but wanted to create a more comprehensive digital entertainment platform with everything independent artists might need to self-publish and promote their work.

With its initial launch, iCast will have 10,000 MP3s for download, 100 original interviews, 210,000 filmographies, 47,000 actor bios, as well as concert and box office information, animations, film shorts, and daily comedy sketches. A more comprehensive launch is set for April or May, which will include an advertising campaign that features some of iCast's more compelling artists.

The company has an e-commerce strategy down the line, but will focus on building up a community base in its first year. Eventually, artists will have the opportunity to sell their work through the site, even in micro-transactions for as little as 10 or 25 cents.

ICast's music strategy includes streaming, personalized radio content, DJ tools, and even MP3 swapping.

To promote its DJ tools and broadcasts, iCast has signed up the Invisibl Skratch Piklz -- one of the world's most accomplished and renowned DJ crews -- to produce original content for the site.

ICast will be including Icecast, an application for streaming programs in the MP3 format in its toolset, thanks to its acquisition of Green Witch Internet Radio in January.

ICast plans to give its artists and audience a open-ended platform for previewing, downloading, or sharing files. The "viral sharing of media," said Miller, is a key component of its strategy.

Companies like Napster have run into trouble with this same concept, but Miller said iCast will deal with that if it becomes an issue.

"You cannot stop people from finding and searching for illegal MP3 files," Miller noted. "So viral sharing may be a gray area."


WOBURN, Mass.--(ENTERTAINMENT WIRE)--April 14, 2000






FLASH "SITE OF THE DAY" AWARD

iCAST, an online entertainment and majority-owned operating company of CMGI, Inc. (Nasdaq: CMGI), announced today that its Web site, www.icast.com, was selected by Macromedia as an official "Macromedia Site of the Day." Macromedia recognizes Web sites based on their strong visual designs, superior functionality, and innovative uses of Macromedia products. icast.com has been featured and archived in the "Sites with Life Gallery" section of the Macromedia Web site.

"We designed icast.com with Macromedia Flash in order to offer as highly dynamic a visual experience as possible," said Pam Esty, chief creative officer at iCAST. "Our promise to iCAST members is to provide as entertaining, engaging and interactive an entertainment experience as possible, and Macromedia Flash was an important part of that creative mission."

"'icast.com is a great example of how Macromedia Flash and Generator can integrate to create an engaging user experience," said Jerry Chiu, Solutions Manager, Macromedia, Inc.

In addition, iCAST utilizes Macromedia Flash to offer free, personalized profiles that allow its members to share and promote their multimedia in a highly dynamic and professional manner. Anyone can build a Flash profile by going to the community channel on www.icast.com.

iCAST's mission is to become a major online entertainment content distribution platform and a premier destination where members can create, share and personalize their entertainment experience, as well as discover and interact around a wide variety of original, third-party and member-generated multimedia content.

About iCAST

iCAST (www.icast.com) is a multimedia rich, online entertainment company that champions self-publishing within a personalized, community-oriented environment. iCAST.com empowers individuals with the tools to create, customize and share their personal entertainment passions. It offers original, user-generated and syndicated audio and video content, entertainment news, features and interviews, live and archived events, and more. iCAST and the iCASTER, its downloadable media player, use Microsoft's Windows Media as its preferred streaming media format. iCAST is a majority-owned operating company of CMGI, Inc.



 



BUSINESS WEEK - OCTOBER 25, 1999
David Wetherell: Internet Evangelist
Who is David Wetherell? And why is everyone talking about him and his hot company, CMGI?

For most folks, summer vacation at the beach means catching a few rays and jumping into the waves. But David S. Wetherell is not most folks. While kicking back two summers ago at ''beach.calm,'' his Martha's Vineyard place, the founder and CEO of Internet holding company CMGI Inc. (CMGI) spent his days glued to the Net. From a cool, dimly lit room, Wetherell would sign on to Web portal Yahoo!'s financial message board using the name ''CMG_CEO.'' At, first the other Yahoo! (YHOO) users thought it was a prank. But when one asked what rock band the head of CMGI Europe managed before joining the company, CMG_CEO quickly tapped back, ''Genesis--one of the all-time greats.''

With that, the Wetherell groupies were convinced that he was the real McCoy. And for the next six days, astonished investors conducted a running online conversation with the 44-year-old Wetherell. They asked him about his business plans, which he carefully answered in detail. And, of course, they couldn't praise Wetherell enough. ''Because of CMGI, we have an extra $22,000 in the account which will help put our daughter through college,'' gushed one fan.

It was the Internet equivalent of Mark McGwire taking a seat on a plane filled with rabid baseball fans. Because when it comes to Internet investing, few have hit the long ball more consistently than Wetherell. The unusually structured company--which operates as one part traditional holding company, two parts publicly traded venture-capital fund--contains a portfolio of 52 Internet ventures. Shares have rocketed from a split-adjusted 33 cents apiece since its initial public offering in February, 1994, to a high of $165 last April. And although CMGI, like all other Net companies, got hit by a big sell-off last spring, its shares have since recovered 48% from their August low, to $104. Even so, $100 invested at CMGI's IPO would be worth $31,500 today.

Moreover, CMGI has posted stock market gains that make even some of the hottest Silicon Valley Net stocks look tepid. Sure, Timothy Koogle of Yahoo! or Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.com Inc. up in Seattle get more attention. But since the runup in Net shares took off last October, CMGI shares have soared 700%, compared with gains of 342% for Amazon and 166% for Yahoo! That gives Wetherell, who holds a 16% stake in CMGI, a net worth of about $1.6 billion.

Even with the tremendous prospects for business on the Net, it's still hard at first glance to grasp what's driving CMGI's heavenly valuation. CMGI's $10 billion market capitalization teeters on a minuscule base of $176 million in revenues and an operating loss of $127 million. But what makes Wetherell a huge winner so far is that he was among the first to spot the potential of the Net and has been on the front lines ever since. He has promoted his companies, and the Net itself, with the passion of a true zealot.

Wetherell burst into view last February when he locked horns with USA Networks (USAI) Chief Barry Diller over the price of Lycos Inc. (LCOS), the popular CMGI-launched portal Diller wanted to buy (page 150). But before most knew his name, Wetherell was busy placing bets on the future of the Net. In 1995, he paid $2 million for 80% of Lycos; CMGI's remaining 17% stake is now worth around $900 million. And in 1996, he bought one-third of GeoCities (GCTY), the home-page-building Web site, for less than $6 million. Two years later, he sold CMGI's stake to Yahoo! for shares that earned a net gain of more than $1 billion.

Thanks to these and other prescient moves, CMGI now sits atop an astounding $3 billion in marketable securities, which have snowballed from $160 million just a year ago. ''You have to look at some of the home runs he has had in the past and trust there's a lot of other value in the portfolio,'' says Nicholas Applegate partner William H. Chenoweth, one of dozens of CMGI's institutional investors. Adds Anthony Bay, a new media executive at Microsoft Corp., which owns 4.8% of CMGI: ''As an investor, we have done fantastically well.''

But snowballs also melt. And the big risk for Wetherell is that the days of making easy money on the Net from skyrocketing shares could be over. Wetherell's model so far has depended on doing deals, yet the currency he relies on could easily deflate before he creates a going concern that churns out reliable profits. That, of course, is the dilemma facing virtually all Net ventures right now. But by betting so much of his financial future on his ability to dodge the Internet market's notorious volatility, Wetherell personifies the huge risks and potential rewards of the online revolution. ''CMGI is using highly inflated stock to buy stocks that are highly inflated,'' says Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com Corp. (COMS) and now a vice-president at market researcher International Data Group. ''They're playing with fire.''

IMMORAL ACTS. For someone under such intense pressure, Wetherell exudes serenity. With his piercing blue eyes, trademark black T-shirt, and dark gray suit, he has the look and sound of an evangelist who has glimpsed the true order of things: the almost infinite business potential of the Net. Few things get Wetherell as excited as waxing endlessly about the ''viral'' growth prospects of Web sites, with their ability to make exponential leaps in traffic every day. ''We have 2,000 business plans a month coming in,'' says Wetherell. ''The power of innovation, of entrepreneurial motivation, has never been greater because of the Internet.''

Of course, there is the small matter of turning all those click-throughs and eyeballs into real revenues and earnings. But in the world according to Wetherell, showing a profit too soon is akin to an immoral act. The greatest virtue, by contrast, is to spend freely to acquire vast stretches of Internet real estate: the portals, content sites, and advertising and marketing ventures that hold the promise of riches at some vague point on the horizon. ''It would be sinful to be making money on the Internet right now, when it's growing this fast,'' Wetherell claims.

So Wetherell, the venture capitalist, is still in overdrive. He's buying up stakes in Internet startups at a frantic rate and expects to add 60 new companies to CMGI's portfolio in the coming year. And, Wall Street willing, his game plan calls for taking a further 9 or 10 of those companies public in the next 18 months, in hopes of adding $10 billion to $15 billion more in marketable securities to CMGI's portfolio by the end of 2000. The pace has been so frenetic that, since August, Wetherell has kept his five-member board on ''emergency status'' to be ready to vote on deals on a moment's notice.

At the same time, Wetherell is focusing intensely on the dozen or so majority-owned businesses in his portfolio, convinced they can emerge as a powerful force in e-business. To fund the cash needs of his fast-growing empire, he has taken $138 million in capital gains by gradually selling down CMGI's Lycos stake. And in the past two months, he has ponied up some $4 billion of CMGI's richly priced stock to acquire eight new businesses. His biggest purchase was the $1.9 billion stock deal to snatch up 83% of the AltaVista portal from Compaq Computer Corp. (CPQ), a key piece of his strategy to lure a big audience to his network of online sites.

He has also been hyperactive in the hotly contested arena of Web advertising. In the past month, Wetherell has spent $1.6 billion on Internet advertising outfits Flycast Communications (FCST), AdKnowledge, and AdForce (ADFC), building on his already extensive advertising holdings. Wetherell's goal: to become a powerhouse in the rapidly emerging market for targeted advertising on the Net. Says Charles W. Berger, CEO of AdForce: ''CMGI wants to become one of the cornerstone players of Internet advertising, and they are investing in the backbone pieces to do that.''

In some ways, the push into targeted Net advertising is a natural for Wetherell. In his pre-Net days, he spent eight years honing his skills as a direct marketer as head of CMG, or College Marketing Group. The company sold lists of college faculty and courses to textbook publishers. Still, there was little in his background to suggest he would one day be a major player in the New Economy. The youngest of six children, he spent the first years of his life on his family's 100-acre chicken and cattle farm in what was then a rural section of Connecticut north of Hartford. When business went bad, Wetherell's father moved the family first to northern Vermont to try potato farming and then to Florida to try his hand at construction.

The warmer weather meant more time for 10-year-old David, a fanatical baseball player, to perfect his curveball for his Little League team. He pitched so hard at games that his parents worried he would injure his arm, says Wetherell's brother Ralph, a Connecticut strawberry farmer. Off the field, David poured the same intense energy into music and math, talents he inherited from his mother, Georgie, now 84. ''He did not sleep any more then than he does now,'' says Ralph. ''He was up at 4 or 5 every morning.''

Later, David's mother took a secretary's job to pay for his tuition at an elite private school. He stumbled through his first course in computer programming and concluded he had no talent for it. But later, as a mathematics major at Ohio Wesleyan University, he rediscovered computers and began writing code with a passion. A string of software programming jobs after graduation in 1976 eventually led to the Boston & Maine Railroad Co., where he was hired to build a system to manage thousands of freight cars.

''A LITTLE NERDY.'' Wetherell's early days as an entrepreneur were less than auspicious. After starting, then selling a small software company, he was hired to run College Marketing Group. But he rushed headlong into a deal to buy another direct-mail company that was rife with slipshod accounting and big losses. ''CMG was very threatened,'' says Greg Avis, a director. But even amid the troubles, he showed the high-level energy and quick thinking typical of many entrepreneurs. Adds Glenn Matthews, CMG's founder: ''He seemed a little nerdy. He was gangly, enthusiastic. He liked to talk about ideas.''

Whatever he lacked in business judgment, moreover, Wetherell made up for with his charisma. ''Dave managed to charm the bank,'' says Matthews, and CMG skirted bankruptcy. Over the next six years, business tripled, to $9 million. But by then, Wetherell seemed bored with the smoothly running operations. In meetings, co-workers say, he often indulged his passion for birdwatching, staring at the trees outside the window. By 1993, when the first signs of electronic publishing began to emerge on the World Wide Web, Wetherell was ready to make his move. Earlier, he had dabbled with the idea of selling publishers CD-ROMs containing the names and numbers of college professors. Now he persuaded CMG's board to fund a project called Booklink Technologies.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Anticipating Amazon.com (AMZN), Booklink aimed to exploit the Web by selling books to college professors through their PCs and a telephone line. To make the project fly, Wetherell hired a team of software engineers to build a Web browser. Four months into the project, Netscape launched Navigator. In short order, Microsoft (MSFT) and America Online Inc. (AOL) came knocking on Wetherell's door. After spending $900,000 and six months on the Booklink browser, Wetherell sold it to AOL in mid-1994 for stock worth $30 million, which grew to $75 million. ''That's when David knew he was on to something big,'' says Peter H. Mills, managing partner of @Ventures, Wetherell's venture-capital unit.

From then on, Wetherell threw himself into the Internet. With half the proceeds from the Booklink sale, he set up the @Ventures fund to take leading stakes in Internet startups, beginning with Lycos. He began spending long hours on the Web. In quick succession, he launched a host of subsidiaries to provide key infrastructure for emerging e-commerce: Engage Technologies (ENGA) to develop targeted direct-marketing tools for the Net, ADSmart to sell online advertising, Planet Direct (since renamed MyWay.com) to provide customized news and information to Internet service providers, and NaviSite to provide the computer gear and links to manage other businesses' Web sites.

But CMGI directors balked at the burn rate of Wetherell's money-losing ventures, which consumed $5 million a month--a huge commitment for a public company with negative operating cash flow of $4.7 million in fiscal 1996. ''Dave had in mind that they could all be linked and somehow be successful, but it was not clear to those of us sitting on the board,'' says Avis, one of two outside directors at the time. Wetherell had doubts himself at times. Although Lycos was a hot Net IPO in 1996, a year later the stock had plummeted 73%, to $6. On the verge of taking CMGI private, Wetherell was bitterly frustrated. ''We felt we had a failed model,'' he says.

Those doubts have long since disappeared. Lycos' stock rebounded in late 1997 on the strength of an analyst's recommendation. That was enough to generate some big institutional investors, marking the beginning of CMGI's wild ride up. And Wetherell has not stopped to look back since.

Now, to take his company to the next level, Wetherell wants to turn CMGI from its current state of a collection of Internet stock plays into a conglomerate capable of supplying a huge array of Internet services to consumers and corporations alike. In another era, he might have been an aspiring railroad baron. But Wetherell's railroad would also own the stations and bistros along the route where people gathered to socialize or do business; it would have a financial interest in the merchants who would sell passengers wares en route; and it would supply the picks, shovels, rails, and rolling stock to others who wanted to enter the railroad business.

VIRTUOUS CIRCLE. At the core of Wetherell's vision is a plan to create a network of interlocking Net companies that work together. He wants each of CMGI's sites to feed its users into the others in a virtuous, ever-growing circle. Wetherell's network draws individual customers through his AltaVista and Lycos portals, which generate the traffic that's crucial to the rest of the enterprise. Popular sites such as Ancestry.com, a genealogy site for families, and investor forum Raging Bull (page 148) form another key component, holding visitors on the network with content. And having assembled an audience of consumers, Wetherell has e-merchants such as Furniture.com and MotherNature.com to sell them an easy chair or some vitamins.

It's a hugely ambitious plan, aimed at keeping Web surfers within CMGI's electronic grasp for ever-longer periods. And as yet, it remains largely unproven. After all, it's hard to hold people in a network when jumping to the next site on the Web is only a mouse click away. Even the most expansive sites, such as AOL and Yahoo!, don't offer enough to keep users in their confines. ''The question is, can CMGI really turn this collection of companies into a network and build a lot of traffic,'' says Keith E. Benjamin, a partner at Highland Capital, which provides seed money for Internet startups.

Few sites, moreover, have yet figured how to make money off the Web's massive audience. That's why CMGI's most important play is to develop the sophisticated tools necessary for direct marketing on the Net. Not only is Wetherell counting on such targeted marketing to boost ad rates on his own sites; he also figures money can be made selling that capability to other Web sites. Says Bill Miller, director of business development at Intel Corp. (INTC), which owns 5% of CMGI: ''It's a compelling vision, and every month he gets closer and closer.''

At the heart of that vision is profiling technology developed by Wetherell's Engage subsidiary. Since July, Engage has been selling its database of more than 35 million ''anonymous user profiles'' to 14 CMGI companies, including Lycos and AltaVista, as well as companies outside the fold. Those profiles have been created in recent years as Web users have clicked into CMGI sites such as Lycos. While users have surfed around the site, Engage has tracked their every move, building a record of their behavior. Now, each time one of those surfers arrives at a site that uses Engage, the site can automatically flash ads tailored to the surfer's interests. A consumer who has repeatedly checked out the National Park Service Web site, for example, might automatically see ads for tents and hiking boots when visiting an airline-reservation site.

While it's too early to know if Engage really works, Wetherell calls it ''my single most important revelation.'' But he's not alone. Upstart competitors such as DoubleClick Inc. (DCLK) are moving in at warp speed. With surveys showing that the average American family now spends 9% of its free time online, the market for Web advertising could explode, growing from a projected $3.3 billion today to as much as $33 billion by 2004, according to market researcher Forrester Research Inc. Thanks to a simpler technology, DoubleClick has already taken the lead in market profiling. Complicating matters is heated opposition from privacy advocates who warn that Internet profiling violates citizens' rights.

That hasn't slowed Wetherell, who has also bought a host of other Net advertising companies that will expand CMGI's ability to sell ads to many more sites. Flycast and AdKnowledge, for example, provide tools that enable ad buyers to locate unsold space on the Net. AdForce's technology, too, is designed to bring together and deliver ads to large networks of sites.

Whatever CMGI's advertising strengths, however, Wetherell still needs to prime the pump of his empire with the most coveted Web asset of all: traffic. That's why, after the fallout with Lycos last spring, he bought AltaVista in June. AltaVista's 10 million visitors vaulted CMGI into the No. 3 spot among Web networks.

Now, Wetherell wants to turn AltaVista into a ''megaportal,'' a site of sites that would be a showcase and jumping-off point for other CMGI properties. Such Wetherell-controlled sites as financial chat room Raging Bull and video and music entertainment site iCAST are placed prominently on AltaVista. To ramp up his audience, since August Wetherell has been offering free Internet access, with a twist: Those who sign up must click on an ad now and then to maintain the Net connection. So far, AltaVista claims some 550,000 users have signed up for the service, but other attempts at so-called ''free'' advertising-supported Net access have so far been far from successful.

Just as important, Wetherell needs to pull together the pieces of what has become an extremely complex empire. To stay on top of all the moving parts, he relies on a weekly Monday morning meeting, which brings together the 14 CEOs of CMGI's majority-owned operating subsidiaries and its pending acquisitions. With the West Coast CEOs dialing in by conference call at 5 a.m. their time, Wetherell listens as each gives their briefing. The big-picture questions usually come from Wetherell, while his chief financial officer, Andrew J. Hajducky, takes on to the nitty-gritty details.

No CMGI company is immune from Wetherell's scrutiny. He recently put on the hot seat T.C. Browne, CEO of NaviNet, which provides local dial-up connections for ISPs and businesses needing Internet access. Wetherell demanded to know in detail NaviNet's cost structure. It wasn't an idle question. AltaVista's free Internet service depends on NaviNet's low-cost connection. As Wetherell drilled in, Browne laid out the equipment costs for NaviNet. Wetherell's reaction: Although higher than he would have liked, the costs were still well below the $10.80 that AOL says it spends. ''He usually doesn't go for summary answers,'' says David Andonian, CMGI's president of corporate development.

Nor does he stay stuck in front of his computer screen. Six out of every 10 investments CMGI makes are in Silicon Valley companies. So Wetherell makes frequent trips to California. But a quick trip to the West Coast is long enough. A few years ago, Wetherell considered making the big move to Silicon Valley to be closer to the action. But with three school-age children, he and his wife, Celeste, decided to stay put. Besides, he says, a little distance from the center can be a good thing: ''Many of the deals in the Valley are spoiled by too much money chasing too few deals.''

His kids are not missing out, either. The Wetherell house is wired with five separate cable-modem lines--one for David, his wife, Celeste, and each of his three children, who range in age from 11 to 15. The Wetherells were having a dinner party last summer when their youngest daughter handed her father an e-mail containing an offer to buy one of her Beanie Babies for $500. ''Tell her you'll do it for $750,'' was Wetherell's fatherly advice. Four e-mails later, and she sold the Beanie Baby for $620. ''She got the bug,'' he says.

There will be plenty more like his daughter. But even with masses of newcomers logging on every day, both David Wetherell and the Internet are at a big bend in the road. Exactly when sustainable businesses with solid profits will emerge is still anybody's guess. But one thing is clear: Wall Street's patience for funding endless hordes of money-losing Net firms is waning, and many see a shakeout coming.

Wetherell remains confident that CMGI will emerge on top, and company executives say several of CMGI's operating subsidiaries are on track to show a profit between the third quarter of 2000 and the third quarter of 2001. Will that be enough? His business model is built on the stock market's enormous expectations for the Internet. As long as investors keep paying high prices for shares in his companies, Wetherell will have the currency he needs to keep doing deals. But if he doesn't start to produce operating profits, the funding he needs to keep the whole empire going could rapidly dry up.

Wetherell knows all about the dangers lurking out there. He loves to tell the story about some birds he once saw on an island off the Massachusetts coast. A peregrine falcon dived through a group of sandpipers, zeroing in on its victim. In a flash, the falcon turned the sandpiper into a puff of feathers. ''It's a bird-eat-bird world sometimes,'' he says. And nowhere is that truer than on the Internet. The question now is, what will CMGI be in five years: a falcon or a puff of feathers?

By Paul C. Judge in Andover, Mass.