Factiva has launched Factiva Alerts, a new product line that supplies near real-time news headlines to user desktops. Restricted to Factiva's enterprise clients, Factiva Alerts seems to revive "push" technology, which has had its ups and downs in the volatile world of Internet services. The company indicated that it expects only a narrow subset of an enterprise's user base to need or want the service. It has set a per-seat or simultaneous-user pricing structure for subscriptions with a 10-person minimum. Despite intense probing, no one at Factiva would give me a price range for the new product.
Clare Hart, Factiva's president and CEO, said: "Factiva strives to deliver innovative services that deliver our world-class content in the context of customers' work flow to meet their individual needs. With Factiva Alerts, users benefit from breaking news, personalized and profiled from a selection of Factiva's authoritative sources."
Factiva Alerts, a downloadable client software application, uses instant messaging technology to display headlines in the Factiva Viewer. Users see headlines scrolling across the screen and can then click to retrieve the full-text. As new content arrives, the headlines go into a 24-hour archive. The selection of headlines comes from customized personal or group interest profiles on specific industries, companies, topics, or keywords. A standard Factiva Alerts package includes five personal and 25 Group Alert profiles. Users can customize their own feed of the data, including the number of headlines displayed on the screen, time stamps, full-text article display formats, etc.
"With this new technology, Factiva is once again ahead of the competition, developing innovative products for the advantage of our global client base," said Stacey Gelman, Factiva's chief product officer. The system requires Windows 98/2000/NT/XP, at least Internet Explorer 5.01 or Netscape 6.01, 128 MB of RAM, 15 MB of hard-disk space, a color monitor, and an Internet connection. According to Gelman, the color monitor is required because the headlines appear in green and remain that way until the user views them.
Target users for the new service would include groups that require immediate notification of developments that could affect client needs, corporate strategies, market changes, or dangers to corporate security or reputation. Public relations, corporate communications, competitive intelligence, and high-level executives were among the primary targets.
Content for Factiva Alerts comes from the most timely and broadest news sources in Factiva's collection. It includes the complete set of Dow Jones news wires, Associated Press news wires, American Banker, AsiaPulse, Barron's, Far Eastern Economic Review, Canada NewsWire, Capital Marketing Report, USA TODAY, Emerging Markets Report, Federal Filings Newswires, JIJI Press English News Service, Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News, Kyodo News (Japan Economic Times), M2 Presswire, PR Newswire, Professional Investor Report, and Reuters News. Sources also include daily newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.
I asked Gelman whether Factiva Alert would work on wireless devices. Currently PDAs and mobile phones do not have enough "real estate" or space to handle the load, she said, though it would work with a laptop computer.
Other competitors supply similar news headline services with full-text backup. Moreover offers access to some 4,000 regional, national, and international news sources; business discussion lists; and government, company, university, and research sites. Its product can feed directly to an intranet. The minimum price for enterprise access to the service runs at $4,000 a month.
Yellowbrix's iSyndicate service taps 1,000 sources, including content from ABCNews.com, Associated Press, BusinessWire, Datamonitor, Knight-Ridder Tribune News, Scripps Howard News, etc. Material is sorted into 900 categories. An organization can subscribe to feeds from up to five categories for $1,000 a month. That price, according to a Yellowbrix representative, covers the entire organization's access.
The original innovator of using push technology to automatically supply news headlines to desktops was PointCast. In 1996, the company was so hot that Rupert Murdoch reportedly offered $400 million to acquire it. By 1999, it was sold to idealab! for under $10 million, and possibly as low as $7 million. PointCast then joined with Launchpad Technologies to make a new companyŚand a new product lineŚcalled EntryPoint. Late in 2000, EntryPoint merged with Internet Financial Network to form Infogate (http://www.infogate.com), but you can still reach it through http://www.pointcast.com.
The original PointCast service to individuals was free, but Infogate now charges. It features BusinessWire, PR NewsWire, AP Digital, and some 2,000 other sources. Prices vary, but subscribers to CNN Newswatch, for example, pay $59.95 a year or $6.95 a month. For USA TODAY NewsTracker, the price is $39.95 a year or $4.95 a month. Infogate offers a 3-month free trial option on one of its services.
The bottom line is that it seems the wise user will shop around before buying a near-time headline service. One user with whom I spoke also recommends extensive test-driving. She found "push-ed" headlines very distracting and in fact actively resented anyone else controlling her desktop real estate.