SmithKline will invest $300,000 in Empirical Media Corp., a year-old Pittsburgh company with roots at Carnegie-Mellon University. SmithKline will be the first advertiser on Empirical's U-Media, a service launching later this quarter that will cull the World Wide Web, newsgroups and wire services for information on topics in which a user expresses interest. Empirical also will provide technical and business services to SmithKline.
"Our interests in the Internet are relatively embryonic right now," said Tim Wright, VP-director of G.I. Derm, Feminine Care & Cough/Cold at SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, also located in Pittsburgh.
CREATE YOUR OWN U-ZINE
SmithKline has opened a Web site for Vivarin and plans to launch a few more brand sites shortly, a spokeswoman said.
U-Media users can organize topics of interest into "U-Zines." Search technology scans the Internet while a rating system enables the intelligent agent to learn more about a user's likes and dislikes.
The basic service is free; a planned premium service offering content in lifestyle areas will carry a small fee.
"There's a big market for companies that are providing a delivery mechanism for information," said Ken Lang, Empirical's 29-year-old founder and CEO.
Mr. Lang opened the company last June, only a few months shy of getting his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie-Mellon. Among his advisers was Michael "Fuzzy" Mauldin, developer of the Lycos search engine.
The company has financial backing from Safeguard Scientifics' Internet Capital Group.