PUSH OR PULL ?
In the context of news reporting to the end user, 'push and pull' technologies
can be defined as follows:
Time will be spent in this section on push technologies, which are newer
and less well understood than pull. The best known example of push technology
in news is the product PointCast. This software can help users consume
news and information in two ways:
Push : The news gets sent to you to read. Examples : PointCast, e-mails
from The Wall Street Journal with the latest headlines.
Pull : You go and get the news in order to read it. Examples : All-news
Web sites that a user has to visit.
Some interesting facts from Media Metrix show that:
SmartScreens which launch whenever a computer is idle (e.g. on a PC screen)
- this is referred to as 'passive mode'. News stories and information are
downloaded across a network to the end user.
The Channel Viewer is the 'active mode' which only activates when the user
actively clicks on a headline to read a full story.11
The economic model PointCast has built is to charge money for advertising
space on the screens which users view. The push technology along with the
quality of users allows more targeted advertising to be undertaken. The
economic success of PointCast is proven by the fact there have been more
entrants into this market, most noticeably from BackWeb's "Channel Server",
and Lanacom's "Headliner".
PointCast viewers used the service an average of 6.3 days/month, 95minutes/day.
Usage per PointCast viewer in January averaged 9 hours 58minutes.
In January, the active time people spent with PointCast compared with other
Web sites is as follows:
13 times more than the 13.9 minutes users spent with Netscape
12 times more than with MSNBC
7 times more than with Yahoo!
44% of the viewer base is in management, with average household incomes
An audited viewership of 1.2million unique active viewers per month12
Views on the success of push technology do vary, though. In one report,
analysts predicted that push technology would be generating revenues of
$5.7billion by the year 2000.13
However, after systems were forced to crash as more information
was pushed to the consumer, PointCast cut down on the amount of information
that was pushed toward the consumer. Push was supposed to be a little like
television, sending information to passive users - but many users prefer
to be active rather than passive.
"To many analysts, this is the death knell for push. "There is no market,"
said tech stock analyst Harry Fenick, summing up the sentiment for Wall
Street's trade paper, Investor's Business Daily. "The market never
arrived." Even companies like Netscape, which rushed to the push bandwagon,
now admit that the technology was vastly overhyped."14
The conclusion in all of this is that while the jury is still out on
the success of push technology, the argument of 'push versus pull' is not
really relevant. Both are different ways of getting news to the end customer,
and both will survive. However, the currently available push technology
is still constrained by bandwidth considerations, a problem which needs
to be solved before there is more universal use of "push" as a technology
for news dissemination.
11PointCast press release, 5 March 1998, http://www.pointcast.com
13Working Woman, February 1998 "Push