Dow Jones Personal Journal
Cost: $12.95 per month, plus $.50 per update.
News Sources: Just one newspaper, but what a paper! "The Wall Street Journal" plus ESPN sports and AccuWeather forecasts.
Look and Feel: Formatted like an electronic briefing book; read the stories in sequence or jump to a hot story by clicking on its headline.
Ease of Use: A snap. Windows software on two 3 1/2" disks installs quickly. Connect by modem to SprintNet for fast download: 3 minutes at 28.8 Kbaud. Then just click on headlines for stories of interest.
Best For: Global knowledge workers. You're living in Bombay and you need fast, efficient access to U.S. and international business news.
Coordinates: 800-291-9382; http://bis.dowjones.com
Cost: $9.95 per month for 15 topics.
News Sources: Some 15,000 articles daily from mainstream sources, including AP, UPI, Business Wire, Reuters New Media, PR Newswire.
Look and Feel: Artificial "smart" agents search the Net for news and deliver headline stories through e-mail, dial-in, or the Web.
Ease of Use: Software agents search out news items according to key words. When it works, it's as easy as checking e-mail messages for incoming reports. But agents are unforgiving of mistakes in spelling, syntax, and format — sometimes yielding no news or too much of it.
Best For: Early adopters. The advanced search agents range far — even for narrowly defined topic — but they're sometimes prone to glitches.
Coordinates: 800-291-1572; http://www.farcast.com
Cost: $24.95 per month; extra for premium sources such as blue-chip newsletters.
News Sources: Big Blue's blue-chip portfolio of 2,000 sources, from major business media to newsletters: Dun & Bradstreet, ZiffNet, Newsbytes.
Look and Feel: The digital version of news-wire briefs and bulletins, edited to match your interests. You've got to play e-mail Ping-Pong to get full-text stories.
Ease of Use: Three-quarters of a snap. Upload your personal profile to infoSage's Web site, wait two days, then watch e-mail for morning and afternoon headlines. Doing e-mail for full-text news is a pain.
Best For: Business pioneers and entrepreneurs. It's good on the blue chips but even better for following companies and markets that are below the radar screen.
Coordinates: 800-210-5857; http://www.infosage.ibm.com
Cost: $6.95 per month; extra for premium sources.
News Sources: Name-brand news with strong industry and regional coverage from more than 500 sources, including CMP publications and Advertising Age.
Look and Feel: Another teletype-like headline news service that's delivered in the plainest of plain text. Go to the NewsPage Web site for full-text retrieval.
Ease of Use: Another snap. Register at the NewsPage Web site and select 10 topics to include in your personal e-news. Next day, open your e-mail for daily reports; retrieve full stories by directly accessing the NewsPage site.
Best For: Marketing and sales pros. You need to track general developments in your industry and also drill deep for the details when the news affects your company.
Coordinates: Newspage Direct; 800-414-1000; http://www.newspage.com
The Pointcast Network
Cost: Free (revenue comes from advertising).
News Sources Less than a dozen sources, but the glitziest, including Variety and People, plus SportsTicker and AccuWeather.
Look and Feel: The MTV of e-news services, broadcast directly to your screensaver. PointCast flashes headlines, weather reports, and animated ads. Click on a headline and up pops a capsule news story.
Ease of Use: Some Net expertise is needed to download the software from PointCast's Web site and install the program. A full update (automatic or with the click of a mouse) off the PointCast Web site is slow: about 15 minutes at 28.8 Kbaud.
Best For: Personal investors. News and stock quotes appear together, so it's especially good for following stocks that are driven by national and world events.
Coordinates: 408-253-0894; http://www.pointcast.com
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.