BTG, PointCast Bring News to Federal Computer Screens

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BTG, PointCast Bring News to Federal Computer Screens

By Heather B. Hayes

Contributing Writer

Rumors about the death of Internet browsing technology may be exaggerated, but Vienna, Va.-based BTG Inc. and its partner, PointCast, hope to put a few nails in the coffin.

This spring the pair launches FedCast - a free application that will "broadcast" up-to-the-minute government news and information directly to the computer screens of federal employees and contractors.

At a Virtual Government '97 conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association last week, BTG officials confirmed that FedCast - a network of five government channels - will be online by early April.

PointCast, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has recently surged to the head of a new Internet access class known as push technology. The free service, which came on the market in 1996, already delivers global news and customized information to more than 1.7 million viewers, a figure that grows by 350,000 new registrations each month, according to PointCast.

The service, like other traditional broadcast mediums, takes its revenues from paid advertisements.


"With other broadcast mediums, an advertiser could only guess how many people saw the ad ... We can actually gauge the activity."
- Glenn Rudolph
PointCast
"We gather and push information out to users, so that they don't have to take the time to go on the Web and find it themselves, which is sometimes overwhelming and can be difficult and time-consuming to find," explained Glenn Rudolph, product manager for the company's CommunityCast Networks division.

"What's more, the information that users receive is interactive and customizable, so they can choose what information they want to receive on their screens."

Most recently, PointCast has set its sights on providing custom-tailored Web information to vertical markets. Its first target has been the federal government.

Last year, it brought on systems integrator BTG to pull together content for FedCast, the first of a class of industry-specific networks that the company calls CommunityCasts or "extranets."

Although PointCast handles all advertising and broadcast functions, BTG will be the prime partner in this relationship, Rudolph said.

"We realize that we don't know the federal market as well as our partner does," he said. "And in this domain, content is the critical factor. It has to be compelling and dynamic if the service is to be successful."

Paul Collins, vice president of BTG, stated that many federal employees - including Vice President Al Gore - are already tuning in to the PointCast network, which features channels on such topics as headline news, industry information, stock quotes and weather.

By adding the FedCast channels, viewers can access five new channels: Government Newsstand, Defense, Agency, Legislative and Government Employee. These channels allow employees and other interested parties to stay abreast of agency and congressional actions, as well as job openings in the federal government, employee benefits and health care concerns, and access to an up-to-date legislative calendar and government directory.

In time, BTG plans to add other channels, which can be done seamlessly at the broadcast facility.

Partners expect a huge response.

"We aspire to eventually have hundreds of thousands of viewers," Collins said, noting that the prospective audience includes not only active federal employees but retired employees, veterans, union officials, government organizations and government contractors.

"We've gotten an extremely favorable response from the government community, not only for using the service, but they also see it as a good vehicle for distributing information to their own targeted audience."

Although BTG stands to gain the most from FedCast, the service holds a unique benefit for other vendors in the government market looking to tap more customers from this market, Rudolph stated.

Advertising on the network gives companies a chance to target a very captive audience. A channel viewer in the top, right-hand corner of the screen continually runs 30-second ad spots.

If a user wants more information, they simply click on the site, which is hyperlinked to the advertiser's home page or other Web site.

"With other broadcast mediums, an advertiser could only guess how many people saw the ad," Rudolph said. "But since the Internet is a two-way street, we can actually gauge the activity. We can provide very accurate data and feedback to our advertisers."


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