Start-up ePod scores deal with DoubleClick

The start-up, which is pushing the convergence of Internet content and advertising with commerce, inks a deal to distribute its technology across the Net advertising giant's network.

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ePod, a start-up that is pushing the convergence of Internet content and advertising with commerce, today announced it has signed an agreement with DoubleClick to use ePod technology across the Net advertising giant's network.

As previously reported, it is a coup for ePod to make the deal with ad leader DoubleClick, which has a network of more than 4,700 advertisers. DoubleClick's ad-serving system, which targets specific ads to people based on usage patterns, serves around 1.5 billion ads per day.

ePod provides a mini-commerce site within a content Web site. Through the ePod technology, a person can buy a product without "being hijacked" away from the content site, chief executive Geoff Clenenning said.

For example, a customer on a music site trying to buy a CD would only have to click on the ePod floating window to start a transaction.

Other companies with similar technology include Pop2it.com, Nexchange and Vitessa.

"These companies provide the technology platform to blend content and commerce in a better way," said Jill Frankle, the director of retail research at Gomez Advisors.

Yesterday, New York-based ePod announced that it received $18 million in second-round funding from Brand Equity Ventures, XDL Capital, I-Hatch Ventures and U.S. Trust.

The company has deals with several merchants, including music retailer CDNow, video merchant BigStar and eNutrition.

But the alliance with DoubleClick could have ePod walking on eggshells as privacy concerns escalate. Yesterday, executives from DoubleClick and Engage appeared before Congress to address ways their companies can safeguard consumers' privacy.

At the center see story: Probes are latest headache in e-commerceof the privacy storm is advertisers' use of "cookies," which are placed on surfers' computers to track them across the Internet. Advertisers say cookies are useful in keeping track of preferences and making it more convenient to surf the Web, but privacy advocates say they are too easily corrupted and impinge on the privacy of consumers.

ePod is hoping to distance itself from the privacy uproar. The company said it clearly posts links not only to its advertising policy in its window, but also to those of the merchant, and now that of DoubleClick.

"In terms of collecting customer data, we make it very clear that when someone makes a transaction with a merchant using ePod, that they are transacting with that merchant," Clendenning said. "When they release any info, we are not capturing any of it."

Still, some analysts said privacy issues may dog this new sector, especially if these companies are closely aligned with online advertisers.

"Privacy concerns will continue to set off alarms; the issue still needs to be solved," Frankle said.