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Wired dreams of 500 channels

How can a media company "push" its content on the Internet? Wired Ventures is counting the ways.

INDIAN WELLS, California--How can a media company "push" its content on the Internet? Wired Ventures is counting the ways.

At the Demo 97 Conference here today, the company debuted the Wired Desktop, a new program that splashes news headlines, along with Wired's trademark fluorescent graphics, onto a user's computer screen through Marimba's Castanet software.

The Wired Desktop is just one of a handful of approaches the company is taking to "push" or automatically broadcast information to users. Like other publishers, Wired has an array of distinctive--and incompatible--push technologies from which to choose, including products from BackWeb, PointCast, Netscape Communications, and Microsoft.

But Wired is taking a unique approach to dealing with the incompatibilities between the various technologies: It will develop content, or "channels," for all of them. Besides existing projects that ride on Castanet and the PointCast Network, the publisher will create channels for Microsoft's Active Desktop in the forthcoming Internet Explorer 4.0 browser and Netscape's Constellation, according to Gary Wolf, executive producer at HotWired, online sibling to Wired magazine.

"Wired has a lot of capacity to understand the technology," Wolf said today.

Pushed media has captured the attention of a growing number of Internet publishers because it allows them to dispatch news headlines and other information instead of depending on users to visit their sites. But the various push technologies don't work together, forcing users to download the digital equivalent of multiple TV sets and requiring publishers to tailor broadcasts separately for each medium.

Although Wired and some other publishers have the resources to invest in each technology, many do not, a fact that could eventually hamper the growth of Internet broadcasting. In the absence of any clear standard for Net broadcasting, though, Wired will sample most of the new technologies as they are developed until a standard emerges.

"There was always one kid you could get to ride down the steepest hill in the neighborhood first," Wolf said. "That kid is Wired."