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The New Push?

I’ve been to a few digital media schmoozing events in the last few weeks. And, either by random chance or overwhelming statistical probability, I’ve run into several executives at startups in the area known as “content discovery.”

“What is that?” I’ve asked, between sips of chardonnay or bottled water, or other schmooze-inducing liquid. Usually, the answer involves a description of some sort of widget designed to provide relevant content to people as they surf the Web.

It’s not a bad idea, really. As search and behavioral targeting and online recommendations systems get more sophisticated, we should be discovering easier ways to get delivered up-to-the-minute information about the things that interest us. But isn’t there a better buzzword than “content discovery.”

“Isn’t that sort of like what they used to call Push technology?” I asked Alex Gault, marketing director at Minekey, a content discovery company, over Aquafina (otherwise known as purified tap water), at this week’s Always-On digital media conference at Stanford. Gault’s response, which I shall paraphrase here, ran something along these lines: Well, sort of. But that was an experiment ten years ago that resulted in failed companies like Pointcast (developer of a desktop content delivery app that raised more than $60 million then fell into obscurity). What we’re doing now works much, much better.

Perhaps, but I’m still pushing for “Push” as the superior buzzword.

Either way, funding seems to be flowing in. Minekey, which announced today that it raised $3 million from NEA IndoUS Ventures, has a “personal recommendations widget” that bloggers and other content publishers can share with their readers. Media River, which has a program for delivering relevant content between sites, recently got backing from Motorola and Palomar Ventures. Aggregate Knowledge, a service that uses past behavior of people on a site to determine what  content an online retailer should show, raised $25 million this past winter and spring in two early stage rounds backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and First Round Capital.