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Advance, Feed Launch New Venture

Advance.net and the founders of FEED magazine Monday created a new firm which will launch a network of sites targeting "hip" and affluent Web users.

Lycos Inc. took a 25 percent stake in the new company, dubbed Automatic Media, and will fold its Suck.com into the new network.

Also, about $4 million of initial funding for the company came from Advance Publications Inc., parent of Advance.net, Lycos Ventures LP, an independent venture capital firm and London-based venture capital group, Paladin UK. Bear Stearns, Mellon Ventures, Inc., Sumitomo Corporation, Vulcan Ventures, and others have invested in the $75 million Lycos venture fund, created last July.

To meet its proclamation of appealing to the hip contingent, Automatic Media bought alternative culture encyclopedia Alt.Culture for an undisclosed sum. Alt.Culture's sphere includes independent rock and film as well as extreme sports.

Expected to add more sites in the coming months, Advance and Feed also plan to add extensive e-commerce and community features, as well as feature cutting-edge Web-based applications tailored to its audience.

The company has also partnered with the creators of Slashdot.org to develop and expand their "Everything2" software, a community and information management tool that will be integrated into the network.

The sites in the new network will retain their brand names, but will share a common national advertising sales force, as well as other technology and administrative resources.

The company will be fronted by Lee deBoer, former president of HBO International and chief executive officer of New Century Network.

"It's increasingly clear that Web publishing is moving away from the single-title model towards content networks," said daBoer. "Automatic Media is backed by a powerful and unique combination of players with complimentary strengths: Lycos' huge worldwide reach, Advance's wealth of resources and experience in offline and online media, and the creative vision of some of the true innovators of Web content."

Suck.com founder Joseph Anuff, who joins FEED founders Steven Johnson and Stefanie Syman to lead Automatic's creative team, will oversee development of the network umbrella site.

"Up to now, no large-scale site has spoken to the generation that made the Web a mass phenomenon in the first place," Anuff said. "If you're tired of Reuters headlines and stock tickers, but not ready to go back to television, you're our audience."

On its site, Automatic Media defines its demographic target as "primarily 21-34 years old, affluent, educated, and heavily Web-involved. This market is 20 million strong, and is made up of high-indexing purchasers and sophisticated pop culture consumers."

FEED Co-Founder Steve Johnson told internetnews.com Monday the network is coming to fruition after a year of planning with the investors and Tripod Founder Bo Peabody, investor and board member of Automatic Media.

"Our demographic is less an age and more of post-college people who have embraced the Web," Johnson said. "These are people who live around the Web, which cuts into their TV time."

Johnson said an important feature of the new network is its pairing of cutting-edge content with similarly cutting-edge tools and applications, which are being developed in-house with the folks at Slashdot.org and will roll out in five to six months.

"You'd assume that if there is going to be cutting edge content that there would be cutting edge tools to go along with it," Johnson said. "It's definitely tailored for the urban online sophistic