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Monday, April 12, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Interface
Startup tracks your interests to customize a news search


ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Greg Linden is CEO and president of Findory.com, a personalized news and search Web site. No sign-in is required; the site tracks which articles you've viewed, but no other personal information.
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Who: Greg Linden, chief executive and president of Findory.com.

Story hunter: The company's first product, Findory News, offers free, instant personalization of news searches at www.findory.com. It learns from the news you select to read and finds articles that match your interests. And it won't make you sign in or use a password.

What's the point? There's a glut of news out there, and Findory News is one way to find some focus within that information, Linden said. The Web site keeps a record of the articles you've read in the past and uses that information to automatically pick the articles you would likely be interested in.

How does it work? Each visitor is assigned an anonymous identifier, a random number that's part of a cookie — a piece of data that tracks a visitor's preferences. It associates news searches with the individual identifiers. The service is anonymous in that it doesn't know anything about users other than the articles they've read.

Amazon roots: Linden, 31, spent five years at Amazon.com and co-founded the personalization group there. That's the team that customizes Amazon.com's Web site for customers. He led the software side of the personalization group and said he left in 2002 to find new challenges, including obtaining an advanced business degree from Stanford University.

Why news? Lots of companies are developing their own personalization services, and Linden could make a nice living as an executive geek. He said he picked the news business because it has a redeeming social value. "If you make it easier for people to read the news, to spend less time and be more informed, that actually has a lot of value," he said. "People make better decisions."

The money angle: Findory News isn't only about the betterment of mankind. There's some money made here, too. Linden said he plans to sell text advertising on the site, similar to the sponsored links that search engine Google offers on the side of its results pages. Down the road, he said, news organizations might license the technology for their own use.

Pure startup: Findory.com is only about 3 months old, and Linden still runs it on seed funding out of his home. "That's very necessary these days, because venture-capital funding isn't like it was during the heyday," he said.

Gorilla in the midst: Microsoft is planning to jump into this business soon. The company's MSN division said it will soon launch a newsbot for personalized searches of news articles online. Linden isn't worried, though. "It's going to validate the idea of personalized news," he said. "When Microsoft comes out with an actual product in this area, then it's going to attract a lot of attention to Findory."

— Kim Peterson


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