New York City consultancy called EarthWeb appears to have found the right mix of technical and creative talents

P> The David Letterman show and other big names in show business and corporate America have been conferring lately with a hot consulting shop called EarthWeb, a New York City company that seems to be the prototype of the new-style Web entrepreneur. EarthWeb -- which has alliances with Sun Microsystems Inc., Mountain View, Calif., and other major companies -- began as a World Wide Web design company in 1994. But it has evolved dramatically, and offers services such as shaping strategy for its clients, as well as on-line marketing and market research. The company also conducts technology development for Web-based marketers.

Started by three partners as a virtual company, EarthWeb has outposts in Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. The partners have diverse marketing and technology backgrounds. One partner, Jack Hidary, developed Columbia-net, a computer network that linked students at Columbia University. Later, he served at the National Institutes of Health, and created long-distance medical imaging systems, called telemedicine networks. Another partner, Nova Spivak, worked in marketing for Thinking Machines, Xerox Imaging Systems and Star Trek: Next Generation. The third partner, Murray Hidary, was a musical composer and fashion consultant.

Working via a Web-based groupware software, the company landed several major clients quickly and centralized operations on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Presently, the company employs 35. And executives just finished a multimillion dollar round of investments, with plans to seek funds for investment twice during 1996.

Present projects include Fashion-net, an on-line magazine targeted at sophisticated Web surfers interested in fashion as a cultural event. The site features original editorial material, discussion areas and images of new fashion collections. There's also a new on-line service for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which includes maps of the exhibits, calendars of events and art images. Another project is being conducted for the New York Stock Exchange for Web site design. Site development for Fidelity Investments, AT&T and Coopers & Lybrand also have been done.

"When Porter Novelli [a client] got the Fidelity business, they basically wanted to understand how to promote a site on the Internet," said Spivak. "So we did a survey of all the relevant usenet groups and relevant sites. We seeded the news groups regularly for a couple of months. We also registered the site in all relevant directories. Then we communicated with all the Web masters and arranged for cross-links. It was fairly successful as a comprehensive cross-promotional project."

Another interesting project is for the agency that represents CBS-TV's David Letterman show. EarthWeb takes Letterman's "Top 10 List" and sends it to more than 100,000 subscribers via e-mail. "It is the largest consumer mailing list on the Internet," said Spivak. "It is to promote David Letterman. And we send out the Top 10 List from the night before. Anyone can sign up to receive it. It is a good promotion."

An on-line strategy developed for one client -- such as the Letterman show -- may be wholly inappropriate for others, the company said. And on-line marketing plans can take up to a year to develop, such as the proposal crafted for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So when a client first comes to EarthWeb, the company will analyze its marketing, promotional or merchandising goals. "We try to understand what content they have and what skills they have," said Spivak. "We look at their market to make sure their expectations are realistic. Then we design a strategy around that, which could involve research, promotional work or those plus implementing a site and a campaign."

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