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PointCast pushes for colleges

The push company previews a special version of its Webcasting service for college students to go live this fall.

Push technology will be invading college campuses this fall.

PointCast today previewed a special version of its Webcasting service for college students, PointCast College Network, which was reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last month. The company announced the new service, along with partnerships with a number of information providers, at the Web Broadcasting '97 conference in San Jose, California.

The move to serve college students more directly could be a smart one for PointCast. The estimated 14 million U.S. students spend billions of dollars every year on everything from mountain bikes to books to concert tickets. College students are also a highly computer-literate group, often with dedicated Internet access from campus computer centers or dormitory rooms.

Because PointCast makes its money almost exclusively from ads, a qualified audience of college students that is immediately accessible could be very attractive to advertisers. It could be equally attractive to student groups that want to promote events or to universities that want to broadcast class catalogue changes.

And with the push market it pioneered becoming increasingly competitive, PointCast is under pressure to increase its audience.

"Our total Internet-intranet solution gives colleges and universities up-to-the-minute news and information while supplying the necessary tools for university IT departments to manage bandwidth and broadcast internal campus news and relevant information," Chris Hassett, chairman of PointCast, said in a statement. "At the same time, with the 30-second animated commercial pioneered by PointCast, the PointCast College Network will give marketers direct access to the lucrative student market."

PointCast's client software allows users to automatically tune in to broadcasts of sports scores and financial data--accompanied by advertisements--rather than having to venture out to Web sites manually with often-cumbersome URLs. In addition to the regular menu of information providers, such as the New York Times and CNN, PointCast College Network will contain six channels dedicated to college news, areas of academic interest, and extracurricular activities like music, sources said.

Today, PointCast said the new channels will include E! Online, Music Zone, Student Advantage, Resource, and Wired Esc. One of the channels will be produced by University Wire, a service that aggregates news stories from over 120 college newspapers.

Universities and colleges will be able to purchase their own PointCast servers, known as I-Servers, which allow them to customize channels with their own information.

The company is facing increasing competition from Netscape Communications, which yesterday posted the first public beta version of its own push software, Netcaster. PointCast will also compete with Microsoft to a certain extent, but the two companies have cut a deal that will make PointCast's channels accessible from the Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser.

The service will go live in the fall, the company said.