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Monster.com founder's next venture: Hooking older, wiser Web users

At 45 years old, Jeff Taylor, founder of the popular Internet job-search site Monster.com, is too young to sign up for his new Internet venture.

But that still leaves Taylor with 76 million potential users for Eons -- an online information service for people 50 and older. That number is destined to grow as the post-World War II baby boom generation continues to age.

``All of those boomers who first started using Monster are now turning 50," said Taylor. ``Ten thousand people are turning 50 every day." While there are a number of Internet sites that target seniors, Taylor says that none of them have so far managed to attract a critical mass of users.

Hoping to capture these boomer web surfers, Taylor launches www.eons.com tomorrow . The site is a one-stop portal featuring news, information, and services designed for older Internet users.

Ted Schadler , an Internet analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, said there's definitely an audience for such a service. Schadler estimates that about 70 percent of older baby boomers are already online. ``Online seniors are just like everybody else," he said. ``They go to Google, they go to Web portals like Yahoo, they send e-mails back and forth." A service like Eons is ``not going to be a foreign idea to them," Schadler said.

Eons already faces competition from a number of senior-oriented sites, including ThirdAge.com, TheSenior.com, and AARP.org, a site run by the 30-million-member American Association of Retired Persons. But Taylor wants Eons to be the website for seniors, in the same way Monster became the go-to site for job hunters. ``I look at this as an opportunity to build a brand, where maybe one doesn't exist," he said.

Eons features an Internet search service customized for older adults called ``Cranky," which will combine automated Web indexing with a team of human editors who seek out sites that are most likely to appeal to seniors. In addition, Cranky will track the searching habits of Eons subscribers, using that data to improve results.

The site has plenty of material on finances and health , two concerns that loom larger for people as they age. For example, Eons features a ``longevity calculator" based on the work of Boston University Medical School professor Thomas Perls. Designed for people over 50, the calculator collects information about the user's lifestyle and exercise habits, then delivers an educated guess about how long they can expect to live.

A visitor who wants to get the most out of their remaining years can create a list of life goals, which are automatically indexed and compared with other members' goals. People with shared goals can contact one another and exchange ideas on how to get wherever they want to go.

While earlier generations might have simply wanted to move to Florida, Taylor thinks today's seniors will want more excitement. They're often in much better physical shape than their ancestors, thanks to better medical care and jobs that didn't require hard physical labor. And Taylor believes that people who grew up during the turmoil of the 1960s will retain a taste for new challenges. So Eons will tout travel and entertainment options such as skydiving and ``adventure tourism" to remote more remote regions of the world.

Still, everybody dies, and Eons doesn't flinch from the inevitable. The site boasts a section called Obits, featuring death notices from across the country and news stories on the passing of famous people. Members can search for deaths by ZIP code, employer, even the school attended by the deceased. They can set up a sort of digital death watch by requesting e-mail notification when a fellow college alumnus dies. There's even a humor section called Way To Go, with news reports about people who get themselves killed in interesting ways.

The Eons features are all free to subscribers because the company aims to attract a large audience of affluent, well-educated seniors to offer up as advertising targets for major consumer-products companies. Eons requires its users to be 50 or older, though those younger will be permitted to ``sneak in" to the service, so companies that cater to older buyers won't waste their advertising impressions on the young.

In addition, Eons will collect and analyze the data posted by users. The company vows it won't share users' personal information with advertisers. But it will give them anonymous data to help them tailor their ads. For instance, members whose life goals include lots of travel can expect to hear from airline and hotel companies. Indeed, hotel companies Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and Hyatt Corp. have signed up as Eons sponsors; so have the insurance firms Humana Inc. and Liberty Mutual Group and the cellphone firm Verizon Wireless.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

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