People Who Love People

Who would have thought that rough-and-tumble Wall Street was a people
kind of place?

It appears to be, based on the early reception given MiningCo.com, which
closed Thursday at nearly $59 a share, 24 percent above the $47.50 close on its
first day of trading Wednesday, and 136 percent above the $25 share offer
price.

MiningCo.com, of course, is a Web directory featuring 13 channels
covering a wide range of news and topics, including business,
technology, arts and entertainment, games, hobbies, shopping, sports and
travel.

Sounds like standard portal fare, but MiningCo.com’s twist is that its
directory content is selected by real humans – Web guides, if you will –
rather than some search spider dredging up whatever it finds in a
perfunctory swing through cyberspace. The theory is that real people can
achieve better quality control by exercising the judgment for which our
species is well-known. Hey, it’s just a theory.

The New York-based company planned to raise $75 million in its offering
of 3 million shares, but that amount was boosted Thursday when
underwriters, led by Bear Stearns, bought an extra 450,000 shares of
common stock to cover over-allotments.

If that doesn’t make the humans at MiningCo.com feel warm all over, at
least one analyst is speculating that cable giant Comcast – which has
announced plans to invest $2.5 million in MiningCo.com – might be
interested in an outright takeover.

That’s a lot of demand for a company whose losses nearly doubled last
year, going from $8.6 million in 1997 to $15.6 million. (Though revenue
growth for that same period was an eye-catching 952%; from $391,000 in 1997 to $3.72 million last year.)

But MiningCo.com is one of the Web’s most popular destinations, drawing
more than 4.6 million unique visitors in January alone, making it the
26th-ranked Internet site that month. That places it right on the heels
of the big players.

MiningCo.com seems to have had great success selling itself to Wall
Street. To prosper on its own, however, it must do a better job of
attracting advertisers – no easy task in a world filled with the likes
of AOL, Yahoo!, Lycos and Excite.

Coming to a ticker near you

There could be as many as a half-dozen Internet IPOs out next week.
Among those listed on various calendars are smart card vendor Litronic
(LTNX), Internet access and Web host Log On America (LOAX), subscription
software provider Usinternetworking (USIX), online news and community
player ZDNet Group (ZDZ), car sales middleman autobytel.com (ABTL) and,
dare I say it, “name your price” e-tailer priceline.com (PCLN).

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