With the power of the Internet to deliver information, print publications are facing yet another competitor in an already crowded field. Two news services have begun using the Internet to deliver all the news that’s fit to transmit. The PointCast Network (www.pointcast.com) and Excite Live! (http://live.excite.com) deliver personalized news and information directly to your desktop via the Internet. Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I he PointCast Network (PCN) and Excite Live! are supported by advertisers, but there is no obligation to buy any products in order to use them.
PCN works just like a normal screen-saver: it changes the display on your monitor after the computer has been idle for a period of time, but instead of flying windows it displays news and advertisements. The program can also be activated while you’re working in another program by selecting the PointCast icon. After installing PCN, you can customize news and information to your interests. Users can access the latest news from the New York Times, Reuters, CNN and other news sources, as well as up-to-the-minute stock quotes and market statistics.
Geared toward business users, PCN lets users customize a scrolling stock ticker, or check stock prices and access news on specific companies. “Business people can get information on their industry, track competitors and get the latest press releases,” says Ann Shepherd, director of viewer marketing for PointCast, which boasts a majority of businesspeople among its over 1 million users. “It gives business users up-to-the-minute information that gives them the competitive edge.”
Users with a direct connection to the Internet can have continuous news updates. Any user, including those with dial-up access (including content providers such as America Online or Internet service providers) can schedule update times. PCN can be downloaded for free at the company’s Web site and is also available on CD-ROM for $19.95. It requires 8 MB of RAM, 10 MB of free disk space and Netscape 2.0 or higher. PCN was first introduced in a Windows only version. Now a beta (or test) version for the Mac is also available; version 1.0 will be available in the first quarter of this year.
For those of you with limited hard drive space, Excite Live! may fulfill your information needs without filling your hard drive. There is no download needed, and no special browser, operating system or compatibility issues. As long as you can view Web pages, you can use Excite Live! It creates a personal Web page tailored to your interests. The user interface identifies each individual user by a password and e- mail address combination, which must be used to access your personalized site.
But before activating the information delivery service, it’s necessary to complete a user profile by clicking on various personal interests, such as entertainment, business or technology. Excite Live! provides horoscope, lifestyle and TV and movie listings sections. Sports scores and local movie listings, based on where you live, are also available.
“Live is a proactive way to use the Web,”