News That Lives on Your Desktop

By Kim Hart

It's tough to keep up with all the blogs, Web sites and emails that have become daily required reading. Finding a way to have all that delivered directly to you, and then sifting through it to find the stuff you actually want to take time to read, is more and more important.

Two local companies have teamed up to do just that. Chantilly-based BIA Information Network
this week launched a product called NewsView, an application that lives on your desktop and constantly pulls headlines, sports scores, traffic, weather and videos -- only the ones you indicate having an interest in -- from a variety of news sources. A lot of the content is provided by Voxant of Falls Church, which distributes licensed content from Web sites such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, Reuters, CBS and the National Hockey League.

News aggregators are hardly new. Many people use RSS readers, widgets or home pages such as iGoogle to stay on top of their favorite online material. NewsView, BIN's product, is different in that it's an application you download directly to your desktop and isn't dependent on having a browser window open, said Mike Ferrara, vice president of BIA Information Network, which is a subsidiary of BIA Financial Network.

"Widgets are more playful...and they float around on a Facebook page or social network. We're much more of a Swiss Army knife that sits on your desktop," he said.

NewsView is an extention of BIN's older product called ActiveAccess, which is used by private companies and other organizations to brand their news feed to members. TV and radio stations, including Clear Channel of Pittsburgh, use the application to send messages, alerts and news feeds to people who sign up. George Washington University uses it to send out public safety alerts to students. Penn State tailored it to send students updates from the school's athletic department.

Ferrara said NewsView is intended for consumers who want to tailor their news-gathering. But desktop space is precious real estate, and the company needs to strike a balance between providing useful information without bombarding users with ads and content they don't want.

"We don't want to be in a situation where we're annoying people in any way," Ferrara said.

Consumers can choose the content they want to receive from the 300 or so providers Voxant works with.

Marcien Jenckes, Voxant's CEO, describes the company as a portal turned inside out. Instead of working like sites such as Yahoo or AOL that aggregate content on their pages, Voxant distributes content across about 20,000 other sites. It makes money by selling advertising to compensate both the content producers and distribution partners. Videos make up about a third of Voxant's content.

Right now, Voxant mainly sends content to blogs and Web sites. BIN's product is the first desktop application the company has worked with.

"Part of the reason our product is so appealing to marketers is that Web audiences are highly disaggregated," Jenkes said. "The highest level of engagement is spread all over these sites all over the Web. Historically ad-buying has been very concentrated. So the appeal to them is being able to reach users scattered across sites all over."

By Terri Rupar  |  April 23, 2008; 3:10 PM ET  | Category:  Technology
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