Jennifer Zaino
SemanticWeb.com Contributor

The Internet is a huge source of health information for consumers – and that makes the health care and life sciences publishing and advertising community a good market for some semantic web companies to tap into.

Knewcologo.gifOne of those companies is Knewco, whose semantic platform combines knowledge discovery for the user with contextual advertising for content providers and marketers.

The company, which is working on commercializing the product this quarter with the goal of fully rolling out the technology next year, recently named as CEO Dave Rothenberg, the founder of physician-focused online health care media company MDLinx.

“I learned at MDLinx the power of targeting and micro-targeting,” Rothernberg says of his previous company, which created hundreds of newsletters and websites aimed at a host of medical sub-specialties, supported by targeted sponsorship. “What I like about Knewco is we can identify hundreds of thousands of health-care concepts, so when people want to find out more about a particular concept such as a disease or condition, we can help them not just discover and learn about that but match micro-targeted marketing messages along with that.”


Some 1.6 million concepts comprise what Knewco principal Rajiv Salimath says is one of the largest ontologies in the life sciences and health field.

“We’re not just talking about finding keywords and matching to them, but understanding health concepts and all the interrelations of these concepts to other ideas,” Rothenberg says.

Knewco is a founding partner of the ConceptWeb Alliance, a consortium of more than 100 research groups, universities, semantic web companies and others whose goal is to innovate how life sciences knowledge is represented and expanded on the Web. As a member of this group, Salimath says, Knewco has access to some of the latest research in semantic web technologies for life-sciences and to the leading information databases not normally available to knowledge management companies.

Knewco’s ConceptWeb knowledge discovery system analyzes the text on a page to identify the concepts in which the reader is interested, and then provides related resources and targeted ads on those subjects. The building blocks of the ConceptWeb, as well as of the ConceptWeb Alliance, are Knewco’s Knowlets. These bring to concept-based technology semantic representation that now has information contained in it based not on the document alone, but also on the entire set of common, established and potential knowledge about the subject, Knewco says.

Satisfying federal marketing regulations

One of the particular challenges around health care advertising is dealing with the ever-changing world of regulatory restrictions around pharmaceuticals marketing. A warning in March from the FDA to more than a dozen drug companies about the requirement to include fair and balanced language around ads for these branded products may be responsible for what web measurement firm Comscore says was an 84 percent drop in paid search ads by pharma companies between March and June. The FDA warning letter told these companies that dozens of their brands were violating regulations because their sponsored link web ads excluded risk information associated with the use of these drugs.

Rothenberg thinks the Knewco platform may present an opportunity to bring some of those ad dollars back. He says his team is working with its legal department and partners on exploring whether the Knewco platform can be used to provide the data, links and information that satisfies regulators within in-text ads while also allowing marketers to introduce their branded products to the public in an effective way.

“With semantic advertising, we think we can pair messages to concepts and ideas better than other tools out there,” he says.

Knewco will charge publishers on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis and target advertisers on a cost per click basis. “We believe being as contextual as we are we will provide different and higher levels of click-through than others might be able to achieve,” Rothernberg says.

The company also is on the hunt for additional partners – Amazon is already one for targeted book recommendations – that will enable it to bring users the most focused and relevant information in their knowledge discovery searches. It offers an API around which others can build web services and applications based on its in-text semantic delivery platform.

The future for Knewco also should expand beyond the health care and life sciences sector. “We’re planning to prove the model there,” Rothenberg says. “But we’re already thinking through what the next verticals will be.”

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