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Wayfarer adds content but not ads

Wayfarer Communications beefs up its ad-free information broadcasts in an effort to lure users away from PointCast.

Wayfarer Communications is beefing up its advertising-free information broadcasts in an effort to lure users away from PointCast.

Today, Wayfarer announced partnerships with a half-dozen companies that will provide news headlines and other information to users of Incisa, a client-server software package designed to automatically broadcast information within corporations. The companies providing information feeds for Incisa include USA Today, Infoseek, PC World, and the publisher of this Web site, CNET.

Wayfarer's lineup of information providers is still light in comparison with PointCast's array of information "channels," which include CNN and the New York Times. But Wayfarer says that its channels won't bombard users with ads the way PointCast does. (See related story)

Not surprisingly, Wayfarer and PointCast sharply disagree over whether businesses want their employees to receive advertisements along with information broadcasts. Wayfarer makes money exclusively by selling software to businesses. PointCast, on the other hand, makes money primarily by selling ads on its information channels, though it also sells the $1,000 I-Server for companies that want to set up their own information channels.

"I think [PointCast] is running into some major roadblocks in corporations," said Bob Schoettle, vice president of marketing at Wayfarer. "A company doesn't want to endorse pushing ads and nonbusiness content down to users."

PointCast counters that its customers don't mind the ads. What's more, it says, ad sales allow it to sell its server software more cheaply than the ad-free Incisa. An Incisa server that transmits information to 100 employees costs $5,000.

"We said [to customers], 'Do you want to pay a lot of money or get the ads in there?'" said Jeff Cirese, group product manager for server products at PointCast. "They wanted the ads."

In addition to information broadcasts from media companies, Incisa is geared toward businesses that want to transmit private company information, such as inventory figures or 401k data, to employees. Wayfarer says that its software is more flexible than PointCast's I-Server, as it allows companies to set up as many private channels as they want.

Companies can set up one private channel per I-Server.