I'll never forget the chief executive I met for lunch who said that while he was waiting for me to arrive at the restaurant, he Googled me on his cell phone, discovered I had written a book and promptly looked up the reviews on Amazon.com.
I was annoyed because the true-crime book I wrote long ago had nothing to do with my current line of work. (A few business executives I interview may be crooks, but that's another story.) Now comes a ton of start-ups hoping to make money in the red-hot business of searching for people on the Internet. Each offers its own twist on the long-standing challenge of researching and finding business professionals.
The Post's Leslie Walker sent back a photo essay from the DEMO conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. Check out views of Motorola's new iRadio, the Intellifit body measuring device and more.
Transcript: DEMO executive producer Chris Shipley joined Leslie Walker for a one-hour discussion of the top trends and innovations on display at this year's conference.
Ziggs launched in October with a service to help people manage what others see when they search for their names on Google or Yahoo. Jigsaw got started in December, creating a funky new marketplace where people can buy and sell contact information.
Another player in Internet profiling, Eliyon Technologies Corp., has already compiled 25 million electronic dossiers on people and is preparing to release some new people-searching services next month.
You might wonder how these Web profilers differ from established info-giants such as Acxiom Corp., ChoicePoint Inc., LexisNexis Group and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. One difference is that today's Web start-ups tend to use the Internet and automation more, and they don't have large staffs manually compiling information, as most commercial databases do.
The newer Web services also tend to be more narrowly targeted at compiling basic profiles and contact information, compared with the deep backgrounders that include real estate holdings, criminal convictions and personal credit histories.
Another difference is that today's Web services -- mindful of the growing privacy backlash against personal profiling -- try to give people more control over how their professional information is presented.
"We are moving into a world of personal brand management," said Tim DeMello, chief executive of Ziggs. "It is important that Tim DeMello be able to manage his profile on the Web and make sure it is of value."
Boston-based Ziggs wants to be the place everyone goes for a quick look-up of professionals. For that reason, it lets anyone build a free profile at Ziggs.com -- name, job title, employer, brief biography and contact details -- and enables others to search that data. Since many corporations already publish biographies of key employees online, Ziggs also lets people point to existing online bios rather than creating new ones.
The twist Ziggs offers -- and one way it aims to make money -- is a $50-a-year premium service that places sponsored links to your profile alongside search results people see when they enter your name at Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines. Anyone entering "Tim DeMello" into Google's query box, for instance, will see a link to his Ziggs profile at the top of the first page. For about $4 a month, Ziggs basically will serve as an ad agency for people, placing ads on their behalf and doing the messy work of making bids for keywords (people's names), monitoring click-through rates and making monthly payments to search engines.