SmithKline takes smart route to Web

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Health marketer forms alliance with intelligent-agent company

Smithkline beecham, in an effort to get up to speed on the Internet, has formed a partnership with a developer of an agent-driven information search service.

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.

Copyright April 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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