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An Online Feast Of Business News


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AN ONLINE FEAST OF BUSINESS NEWS

For years now, traders and others whose jobs depend on split-second decision-making have had a wealth of instant information on their desktops. In a world of global business and breakneck change, fluctuations in the value of the yen or policy moves by the Bundesbank reverberate far beyond the trading room. But relatively few businesspeople have had desktop access to such

information.

These days, there's less and less reason to be in the dark. At the simplest level, online services such as CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online offer news from wire services. But the stories tend to be little more than extended headlines, and business and financial information get short shrift. Online newspaper services, such as The New York Times' @times on AOL, are updated only once a day.

FREEBIE. A few intriguing alternatives offer information that is timelier, more detailed, or both. If you have access to the Internet's World Wide Web, NewsPage from Individual Inc. (http://www.newspage.com) offers news for free. NewsPage provides information culled from a variety of news sources, including the Reuters wires, with an emphasis on high-tech industries. Individual is selling sponsorship of pages to companies rather than charging users a fee. One problem with NewsPage is it opens with a list of topics rather than current headlines. You often have to burrow down through several layers of menus to find the news item that interests you. Using your Web-browser software to leave "bookmarks" for quick reference to favorite topics is only a partial solution.

Two new specialized dial-up services also have a lot to offer the business newshound. Profound, an upcoming offering from Market Analysis & Information Database Inc. (212 750-6900), combines a variety of news sources with the ability to search a large database of worldwide market-research reports. The service costs $19.95 a month plus $6.95 per hour. Market-research summaries are included, but the full reports cost extra. Profound uses Adobe Inc.'s Acrobat technology to give documents a professional, typeset appearance. They look great when printed, but I found them hard to read on-screen.

Personal Journal from Dow Jones & Co. is a very good buy. For $12.95 a month, you can call in for a personalized daily download from a limited number of features in The Wall Street Journal. For 50 cents per call, you can update the report throughout the day with information from Dow Jones news services.

One new offering shows the promise of online services but is priced for companies only. NewsEDGE from Desktop Data Inc. (617 672-2400) pipes information from the sources of your choosing into a computer on your corporate network. This "news server" then supplies the data to Windows, Macintosh, and Unix machines on the net.

CALL ME. Once I learned the function of some cryptic icons in the Windows version, I found NewsEDGE fast and easy to use. You find information by subject, keyword, or stock symbol. You can also tell the program to alert you--either by beeping or by opening a window--when stories of interest move across the wires.

NewsEDGE costs about $300 per user per year for 100 users, less per user for bigger installations. The real cost, however, is in the licensing fees for news. Dow Jones's comprehensive DowVision service of news and financial data costs up to $1,000 per user per month. For more basic service, Knight-Ridder Inc.'s business newswire costs $6,500 a year for unlimited usage.

These specialized business- news services are still a small piece of the online world. But with business increasingly online--and increasingly hungry for instant information--your choices are sure to grow.BY STEPHEN H. WILDSTROM


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