Phil Dwyer

Forget the time, effort and cost involved in finding and downloading data. Push media is a new software product designed to tailor information to a well- defined audience – benefiting companies and users alike. Phil Dwyer is editor of New Medi

One of the biggest problems media owners and marketers face on the Web is that it gives an equal voice to everyone.

Search for McDonald’s and you’ll find links to hundreds of sites. Buried within those, you’ll find the company’s corporate Website – McDonalds.com.

The danger is that on the Web the millions of advertising dollars spent each year by McDonald’s buys the company nothing – it is just another tiny voice amid the chaos.

So it is no surprise that, with more than 600,000 Websites on the Net, media owners and marketers are desperately keen to “undemocratise” the medium – to make their voice rise above the cyber-babble. Enter “push media” – the latest flavour of the month in the US.

Push media, pioneered by the Pointcast Network over a year ago, is an attempt to impose the broadcast metaphor on the Web. Pointcast, and its imitators (of which there are now many, including BackWeb and IFusion) use the Net as a delivery mechanism, but are side-stepping the Web.

Instead, they have developed their own software which sits on a user’s machine, and effortlessly receives updated and tailored content. The key appeal to the consumer of these services is that they cut out all the frustrating download and search time.

Pointcast is funded by advertising. But newcomers like IFusion offer a more flexible approach for media owners – advertising-funded content is just one option.

Among media owners in the US there is no doubt that push media is an instant hit. “What interests me about push technology is that it makes it harder to compete,” says Andrew Anker, Hotwired’s chief executive. “The key thing is that it pushes up the cost of entry.”

Anker’s support for push technology is no doubt fuelled by the fact that he has just signed a big deal to air Hotwired’s content on the Pointcast Network.

But he is merely running with the pack. Dow Jones has already signed a deal with BackWeb to put The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition on its service. And IFusion has signed a number of big media owners in the US.

For media owners – and marketers – push media promises to guarantee regular delivery of their content to a well-defined audience. It also demands a much bigger financial commitment and risk. The stakes have just been raised.

But the cost of not playing could turn out to be greater: the push media channels are already filling up with high-quality content. The window of opportunity is swiftly closing.

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