Bits & Bytes
SPEEDING THE NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR E-MAIL BOX
NEWSPAPERS AND MEDIA giants such as Time Inc. are all trying their hand at Web sites that deliver news tailored to a subscriber's interests. But instead of logging into a crowded Web site for your daily news fix, Denver-based Mercury Mail Inc. thinks the news should come to you automatically. Its personal news-clipping service sends news, sports, stock market quotes, weather reports, and even TV and entertainment highlights right to your E-mail box. Best of all, the price is right: The service is free to any subscriber with an Internet E-mail account.
To register, one must fill out a brief profile via E-mail or at Mercury Mail's Web site (http://www.merc.com), highlighting interests as well as when and how often to deliver the news. Mercury's 10 editors condense the news into one-paragraph briefs from sources such as Reuters Inc. and Tribune Media Services. By yearend, Mercury Mail's E-mail news offerings will include pictures--say, local weather reports with the latest satellite snapshots. Privately funded Mercury Mail plans to become profitable by selling ads that might be attached to the bottom of each E-mail news brief.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top
A TALE OR TWO FOR THE TRAFFIC-BOUND
ARE THE NATION'S 60 million commuters ready for the all-digital audio book? A company called Audio Highway in Cupertino, Calif., will find out at yearend, when it comes out with a palm-size gizmo that can store and play back as much as 10 hours of digitized speech. Called Listen Up, the device will be able to play its contents through a built-in speaker, headphones, or, using its internal transmitter, a car radio. The compressed voice recordings are stored on so-called flash memory chips. For now, the quality isn't good enough for music.
To load up new material, you plug the player into a docking station that attaches to a PC and connect to Audio Highway's World Wide Web site. There, you select from a menu of programs, including offerings from Newsweek, Berlitz Publishing, Associated Press, and publisher HarperCollins, says Nathan Schulhof, president of Audio Highway. The Listen Up player should retail for less than $400, while access to the Web site will cost $5 a month. The audio programs won't have download charges, but will contain infomercials. For those who don't want to listen to prerecorded material, Listen Up will have a built-in microphone.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By John W. VerityReturn to top
THE WORLD WIDE WEB GETS SPANQ!ED
THE WORLD WIDE WEB HAS certainlybecome the Internet's "multimedia" channel. Although most Web sites are still just text and graphics, many are starting to add "streaming" audio. These digital sound clips, which can be played by any multimedia PC with the appropriate software, can make Web sites seem more like virtual radio stations.
Now there's a Web radio station just for the Gen-X crowd. It's called Spanq!, and it's produced by Global Network Navigator (GNN), an Internet service provider and a unit of America Online Inc. Spanq! (http://spanq.com) is hosted by two twentysomething cyberjockeys, Trip Anchor and Uncle Dutch, and it reviews hot new Web sites. The format for the three-minute audio program can best be described as Siskel & Ebert meet Beavis & Butthead. The sassy audio program is updated daily and mimics the friendly banter of a morning broadcast radio program. But as at a radio station, the Web programs aren't archived, so fans will have to tune in for their daily Spanq!ing.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top