Filtering News For Your Needs

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The infoglut has led to information overload. Choosing the right technology can help sift through the deluge.

Daily newspapers, hourly newscasts, all-news TV, news ticklers, wire services. Information is everywhere, and your users want to read all about it to gain a competitive edge. But a funny thing has happened on the way to the knowledge forum: Instead of staying informed, workers are struggling to manage information overload.

That’s where news-filtering systems come in. These tools help users wade through the deluge, aggregating news feeds from hundreds of sources. The newest ones even custom-tailor information. The long-awaited era of the personal newspaper is here.

Traditionally, filtering systems have been installed as servers on internal client/server networks. This fall, vendors began unleashing versions for the World-Wide Web. There’s even one that beams multiple news feeds from a satellite to a DirecPC satellite delivery service stationed on a corporate WAN.

The market for agent-based filtering technologies is so promising that soon there’ll be as many solutions as there are information sources. And the agent technology used in these filtering services will soon be more important as a programming paradigm than client/server or object orientation, says David Hatch, senior publications editor for BIS Strategic Decisions, in Norwell, Mass.

What’s behind this bold prediction? First, a need has arisen from the exponential increase of information from multiple sources. Second, increased processor and storage capacity is now at hand to help users absorb and process information. Third, filtering works–and when systems work, people use them.

Winning trade

Take Mark Gurliacci, director of data administration for ValueLine Inc., an investment-research firm, in New York. To aid its 80 analysts in preparing weekly and biweekly reports that are considered the bible for investors, ValueLine had built a client/server system running Dow Jones news wires on quote machines. “We didn’t miss any stories,” Gurliacci says, but when the firm expanded its coverage this year from 1,700 companies to 3,500, “the system reached its limits.” That’s when ValueLine went shopping for a filtering powerhouse.

After four months of evaluation, the company signed on with News Alert Inc., of New York. All the systems had “similar capabilities,” says Gurliacci, so it came down to specific needs and price.

Gurliacci estimates that ValueLine will pay around $55,000 annually for the News Alert system, a dedicated Sun workstation running Solaris, which was installed last month. It’s money well spent, in his view. “Without it,” he says, “I don’t know how we could have expanded the database, kept up with the news, kept costs down, and delivered the news to analysts [as a background process].”

Who needs to know?

Wall Street analysts and traders are obvious users of real-time filtering technology. So are journalists. But what other groups of professionals could these systems benefit? Industries that rely on technical or medical breakthroughs are prime candidates. Other industries, such as real estate, that succeed by being the first to snare an opportunity, also need to know the latest news.

Within corporations, specific groups of PC users could make use of filtering technology. Public-relations and marketing departments could monitor stories about a company or its rivals–in time to spin a response. Likewise, executives given the latest news can act more quickly to execute business strategies.

Indeed, IS managers need look no further than their own in-boxes to discover a prime candidate–themselves. Staying abreast of changes in technology is one of the hardest parts of the job.

That’s why AgriBank, a consortium of Midwest banks catering to agricultural lenders, devised a way to deliver personalized newspapers to its IT executives, says Richard Spradling, vice president of systems and technology at AgriBank, in St. Paul, Minn. Like many companies, Agribank subscribes to a CD ROM-based service that accumulates technology publications. Agribank took the resource a step further, employing a librarian to distribute electronic copies of stories from the CD ROM that fit profiles set up by its managers.

A flock of filters

As Spradling’s and Gurliacci’s experiences show, there’s more than one way to stem the infoglut. In fact, slogging through the myriad solutions available may become as daunting as the overload itself. Where to start? First, determine who needs access to the latest information. If it’s an entire department, a private, client/server system on the LAN might be most effective. Desktop Data Inc.’s NewsEdge database, with more than 68,000 users, is a well-established product, and Individual Inc.’s First is coming on strong with news feeds focused on specific industries.

If one or two users need sporadic access to real-time news, a better solution might be individual connections to a Web-based provider. News Alert has just announced a version of its system that allows users to register preferences at its Web site; thereafter, the user simply visits the site to see the latest stories about those chosen topics.

Still other services try to differentiate themselves by bouncing off satellites or riding the coattails of a telephone wire. The newly formed Network News Corp., for example, uses Hughes Network Systems’ DirecPC satellite system to deliver news feeds from sources such as Knight-Ridder, Newsbytes, and BusinessWire.

With electronic newswires, there is no limit to the news that’s fit to print. Yet users waste too much time scanning the headlines themselves. By choosing a news filter, IS managers can help provide an in-box of news they can use.

 

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3 comments on “Filtering News For Your Needs

  1. Rosanne Vanhook on said:

    I am a real estate professional and I am glad that there is something like this happening in our technology today. It can save time since I no longer have to search for news that have something to do with the industry I am in.

  2. Margarete Fassino on said:

    I look forward to taking advantage of this tool. I am a part of the marketing department of a known real estate company. But even if our company is stable, we still have to know what is happening in the industry and what those we are competiting with are currently cooking.

  3. Ona Houghtelling on said:

    For people working for medical institutions like me, I am certain that this technological development is a great help. We are always on the look for information that matters in human health. It is an amazing thing not having to filter the resources ourselves. The technology will do it for us.

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