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News junkies get more juice

News junkies are being bombarded with sites from established media outlets, search engines, and start-ups that are attempting to make it easier and faster to find breaking news.

News flash: The competition is heating up.

As news junkies are turning off their TV sets and radios to get the latest news on the Net, they are being bombarded with sites from established media outlets, search engines, and start-ups that are attempting to make it easier and faster for consumers to find breaking news.

The latest example is the launch of TotalNews, a Web site dedicated to offering comprehensive news retrieval. It allows access to major news sources, such as CNN, USA Today, and MSNBC.

"TotalNews allows easy access to all major news sites," said Sonny Pagni, vice president of marketing. "Back in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson used to watch three TVs at the same time to follow the news. We give news junkies the modern-day equivalent."

Sites operated by established media companies such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times compel consumers to go online for news and, according to Mark Mooradian, an analyst with Jupiter Communications, the trend will continue. "There is no question that news has become and will become even more of a commodity on the Web."

But advertisers need to find these sites just as compelling for them to survive. The majority rely on advertising revenue, which has yet to take off, with the exception of brand-name companies.

The quality of the news organization and the brand will determine success, according to Mooradian.

MSNBC certainly has the brand, and as a result, is taking advantage of this growing market. The media giant last week launched three news-delivery options, including Personal Delivery, MSNBC News Offline, and News Alert. Personal Delivery allows users of the Microsoft Network online service to receive a custom page of MSNBC news by email. News Offline competes with PointCast, which delivers news directly to a user's desktop, and News Alert delivers an alert to desktops when breaking news occurs.

Some online publishers, such as NewsLinx, provide users with links to specific stories around the Web; others simply point to news sites.

AT&T's LeadStory, another news service, provides a brief paragraph summarizing the three top stories of the day with links to more in-depth pieces.

Another popular service allows users to customize their news. Yahoo allows consumers to choose from 24 customization news sites, including its own, My Yahoo.

Ultimately, what will decide success in this competitive market are the crucial factors of originality and ease of use.

"There will be hundreds and hundreds of news sources," Mooradian said. "I expect those to go away, but the beauty of this medium is that each site can be diversified by niches, and they will end up being successful."