Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

All the News That Fits A Personalized Imprint

Everybody knows what broadcasting is, but you are not up with the latest Internet buzz words if you don't know about "narrowcasting." To broadcast is to send out the same information to a large audience; to narrowcast is to send out information tailored to each recipient.

Some people believe that much of the news media eventually will move to some form of narrowcasting. Viewers and listeners will choose which elements of any news program they want. If you are not a sports fan, for example, there will be no need to change the television channel when that part of the newscast appears. You simply will be able to program your television or its equivalent not to receive any sports in the first place.

The Internet is the ideal medium in which to experiment with narrowcasting. A computer network already has much of the infrastructure in place to filter the news sent to each viewer. Until recently, however, it was up to the individual user to piece together his own news service. For most people, this was more trouble and money than it was worth.

California-based PointCast Inc. this year launched the PointCast Network. It is a simple, elegant and -- best of all -- free way to create a personalized news service that you can update as often as you please.

PointCast Inc. released the first version of its network in May. Today is among the most visited sites on the Web. The company says it expects to have 1 million users by the end of the year and that people are downloading its software at a rate of 250,000 per month. It claims to have a stunning 35 million hits per day at its central server in Cupertino, California.

By using PointCast, you can receive world and U.S. news from Reuters, news from a range of different industries, sports, stock market updates and even your daily horoscope. You tell your PointCast software which kinds of sports, news or stocks you want to follow. As often as you log in, back comes a stream of stories. What is so attractive about PointCast is that the software is so simple -- it looks a bit like a personal organizer -- and so imaginative.

A feature that is a must for every journalist's computer is a "smart" screen saver. If your computer has PointCast installed, a screen saver automatically scrolls through the latest news headlines. If you see an interesting story as you walk past your computer, you can simply click and read it.

Though PointCast is a brilliant innovation, I have a few reservations. For one thing, it is -- inevitably -- U.S.-biased. However I configure my preferences, I still get too much U.S. news. PointCast also contains a very clever weather map and scrolling weather reports; frustratingly, they only tell you about U.S. weather.

My second reservation is that PointCast can be horribly addictive. Though it is good to read the news regularly, I found myself obsessively interested in progressing stories and was downloading news updates all day -- at the expense of work I should have been doing.

The PointCast screen saver creates an enormous amount of hard-disk activity on my PC. Though this is mostly paranoia on my part, the more frequently you are accessing your hard disk, the greater the chance that it eventually will crash.

To use PointCast, you need an Internet connection (not just e-mail).

Because the software works off-line, connection speed is not particularly important. It affects only the length of time it takes your news updates to download. To try it out, you must download the user software from http://www.pointcast .com/.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia. fax: 929-9958; e-mail:

Visiting the World Wide Web sites of a major news organization means browsing through Web pages to find the stories you want. This takes some effort, and unless you have a high speed Internet connection, it can be frustratingly slow.