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An Intelligent Live Web Listing

Startup will track live events, including streaming video, auctions, and competitions.

Live content is becoming a major component of the Web–particularly sporting events and webcast political events. But figuring out when and where stuff will pop up can be a challenge. The founders of a new company, called LiveMatrix, say their software can automatically keep track of live content and, eventually, to recommend what a person might want to see. They hope it could also offer an appealing new way for advertisers to reach people.

“When matters,” says Nova Spivack, cofounder of LiveMatrix. Spivack previously founded Radar Networks, a company focused on semantic Web technology. Radar Networks created the website Twine, which can be used to explore content through “meaning” or related concepts thanks to a combination of artificial intelligence and categorization by users. Radar Networks was sold to another semantic Web company, Evri, earlier this month.

Spivack says LiveMatrix uses similar semantic Web technologies to interpret and categorize content. His new company employs several people who have experience building TV listings, and it aims to become the destination for people interested in taking part in all kinds of time-sensitive online activities. Though a number of other startup companies, such as Clicker, are focusing on helping users explore distributed online video content, LiveMatrix hopes that its attention to live events will set it apart. Spivack expects LiveMatrix to launch at the end of May.

Live content, is becoming more and more popular online. YouTube recently served 10 million streams of a U2 concert to its users, while UStream served two million live streams of the Twilight red carpet premiere. However, time-sensitive events go far beyond video, Spivack says. He points to auctions, special events in online computer games, interactive chats, classes, and contests.

Sanjay Reddy, CEO and cofounder of LiveMatrix, says the company intends to be neutral and won’t promote any particular content and won’t show events on its own site. Instead it will gather information and direct users to content providers’ sites.

LiveMatrix will crawl websites that the company has identified as likely to host live events online, and parses information to create listings and extract URLs. It will also provide a publisher portal, where content providers can add their own listings. This can be done by entering event details manually, using LiveMatrix’s application programming interface (API), or by giving LiveMatrix a data dump and trusting its technology to parse the information. LiveMatrix will sort events into channels of similar events and will supply widgets so that users can embed event information on their own sites.

Spivack hopes that the approach will lead to a new online advertising model that focuses on time slots. He argues that advertising space must be more valuable during major events–for example, slots on popular technology news sites during the iPad launch, when huge numbers of people were searching for information on Apple’s new product. LiveMatrix is building an advertising platform to reflect this concept.

Michael Dale, cofounder of metavid, an archive of political video, says LiveMatrix will have its work cut out dealing with the chaotic metadata currently available for most streaming video events. There are few standards for tracking time-sensitive events, he says, and Spivack’s company will need to customize its system for different video formats on different sites.

But Carla Thompson, a senior analyst with market intelligence firm Guidewire Group, says LiveMatrix’s concept of advertising time slots online “will be a relatively easy sell to major media organizations.” This is because the TV Guide format is familiar, and advertisers will likely understand its potential, she says.

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