Webcasting: A Few Tangles
I read "Webcasting" (Special Report, Feb. 24) with great interest. The arrival of webcasting raises a slew of questions: How does one value cafeteria-style information from a provider that scans, filters, and interprets information according to its own priorities and interests? When content is delivered without knowledge of context, is it information or junk? How much should one reveal to get customized information?
We live in a society in which statistics related to our living, eating, and traveling are monitored by marketers trying to customize the delivery of their wares. How comfortable should corporate managers and decision-makers be in handing their personal profiles to third parties?
PointCast has been on my screen for more than six months now. As your report correctly points out, it works best in a corporate environment with a continuous network connection. Even so, there are problems.
For example, the use of the option that generates random automatic updates by PointCast can slow your computer significantly when you are in the middle of other programs, such as word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software.
In addition, the content is a disk hog. Even with only a limited selection of channels, PointCast takes up as much as 24 megabytes on my hard drive. Lastly, the continually refreshed PointCast screensaver is hard on the disk drive.
So while your report is quite enamored of webcasting as an example of "push" technology, I prefer customized content at the click of a mouse.
While webcasting offers a wide selection of ad-supported "channels," it generally follows the conventional cable-TV model. True breakthroughs will occur only when viewers and advertisers are matched for classified ads and want ads. Then, advertisers can turn from generic messages to timely and custom pitches, knowing their money will be spent on targeted audiences.
The feasibility of balancing the push-pull dynamics of the Information Age is indeed the unique and defining feature of the Web.
James K. Ho
Professor of Information
& Decision Sciences
University of Illinois
Webcasting is not about "push" technologies. Just go to pages such as www.audionet.com, and hear the true webcast of radio stations, breaking news, sporting events, concerts, and more to the point, business events.
Webcasting allows companies to use the Internet as a broadcast medium. Many companies are using AudioNet to broadcast shareholder meetings, quarterly-earnings conference calls, product introductions, and training classes.