Turner, Ellison debut Custom News

update The customized news Web site unveiled by CNN and Oracle will reduce information overload, Ted Turner and Larry Ellison say.

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update The Custom News Web site unveiled today by CNN Interactive and Oracle (ORCL) will reduce the "information overload" that is stressing out millions of Americans, even ruining their love lives, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and CNN founder Ted Turner said during a comical Spring Comdex presentation today.

With Ellison playing the technophile and Turner the technophobe, the two billionaires' demonstration of the cobranded site broke little new ground. As reported Monday by CNET's NEWS.COM, the site features news, weather, sports, and business content from CNN and more than 100 other magazines and media organizations.

The free site opened on the Web last night. It is the latest example of the move by traditional media companies to leverage their brand and content on the Web. Other television networks are expanding their own sites, such as MSNBC and ABCNews.com, leading to all-out news competition on the Web.

The site promises to be faster than MSNBC's similar "front page" service. Oracle will provide technology for the site, including its ConText text search and summary technology, an optional component of the company's database server.

Turner and Ellison entertained the overflow crowd while they explained the need for such a product, along with a demo that didn't go too smoothly.

Turner cited a study that claimed one-third of Americans suffered health problems brought on by the deluge of information, at home and at work. "It's affecting our love lives, for Christ's sake," he added, waving his hands.

Turner, named Time Warner's (TWX) vice chairman last year after the media giant swallowed CNN, offered a colorful example. "I have a computer on my desk with the stocks that I follow. I watch it go up 1/8, then down 1/8. I lose $20 million, I gain $20 million. By noon, I don't know whether I should buy lunch myself or let someone else pick up the tab.

"Then I watch CNN all day for all those [convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy] McVeigh updates...I have 15 TVs in my office. Then there's all the sports."

"This [kind of information overload] is what this customized news program is supposed to combat."

Ellison, normally the showman, was stuck with a dry presentation on how Custom News worked. "All those news stories coming in are automatically read by a computer, sorted, and indexed" and sent to the user, he said. A screen showed a complex graphic presentation that nearly put Turner to sleep: linking from the Internet to a Web Application Server that linked to CNN News Sections, which linked to ConText Themes that linked to an Oracle Universal Server with ConText Option.

Ellison also pointed out that the system could run on--surprise--a network computer. He also said it could provide targeted advertising, which would provide money for the free site. Citicorp is an one advertiser on the site. "We expect to handle hundreds of thousands, even millions, of users," Ellison said.

Then the two offered a demo of the product. Ellison's customized news page included any breaking news about the network computer, Japan, and the Olympics. It also showed updates of his three favorite stocks: Oracle, Netscape Communications, and Microsoft.

First, the monitor didn't show the Web page, then Ellison couldn't find his glasses, and then he couldn't figure out how to build a custom news page for Turner, which included CNN headlines, the Atlanta Braves (the Turner-backed baseball team), and Time Warner's stock price.

After some time, the score of last night's Braves game popped up on the screen: San Diego Padres 5, Braves 2. "That sure took a long time," Turner said. "I knew that last night."

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