Corporate communications executives-and the key pharma managers and PR firms that work with them-can now use desktop or laptop
PCs to directly receive broadcast news or play recordings of recent business periodicals and books. The two services, RealNetworks.com's
RealOne and Audible.com's Audible Listener, are state-of-the-art technologies that provide timely access to information using
the ordinary high-speed lines found at most pharma companies and upscale hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott. Both services
use proprietary "streaming" technology that so compactly compresses video and audio files that their internet transmissions
are at a level of quality that rivals TV and radio broadcasts.
Seeing is believing. RealOne costs $9.95 per month and enables executives to view TV broadcast information and any website
content simultaneously on a horizontally split screen image. For starters, the service is broadcasting ABC News.com and CNN.
CNN has formatted a new "QuickCast' show that summarizes the news headlines the moment viewers tune in so they don't have
to wait for CNN Headline News, which shows headlines at only certain times every hour. All that's necessary is to download
RealOne software to a Microsoft Windows-based computer, for now; Mac software will be available later in 2002. Unlike regular
TV, RealOne allows executives to determine the parts of each telecast they want to see and lets them decide the viewing sequence.
Fifteen channels are available and material from 20/20 and Nightline are on file.
Hear articles while you work. Audible Listener is not only a cool way to keep up to date on news articles in the office, it
also can be played in the car, while traveling on planes, or at the gym, because your computer is able to relay the files
to PDAs and MP3 players that executives can carry around in jacket pockets. News junkies will be delighted with Audible's
listener library, which is current and extensive and includes daily issues of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal,
and issues of Forbes, the Economist, MIT Technology Review, and Fast Company as well as NPR's All Things Considered show and
speeches from the National Press Club. Downloads of excellent business books in audiobook format are also available. Executives
interested in Audible's services must have a PC; there's no Mac access so far. Be sure to check out the many deep-discount
specials that bundle Audible's proprietary imbedded software with Pocket-PC and Palm-based PDAs and with excellent MP3 music
players before you sign up for a subscription. Fees are as low as $12.95 per month for basic book and periodical services.
Going farther, faster. During the next two years, those services will become even handier because the computer download factor
will be eliminated and the streaming files will load directly to the new generation of large-screen, high-speed cell phones
now in development. Cameras in such phones will also enable two-way, face-to-face conferencing-as both executives simultaneously
observe a news show on the split screen.
Cheaper access to database information. Lawyers and PR pros have long used the formidable Lexis-Nexis databases for extensive
listings of articles about important issues and information about competitors and potential business partners. Unfortunately,
it costs $1,200 per year to subscribe.
Now executives have access to the full Lexis-Nexis archives on a "pay as you go" basis, with no membership fees and free unlimited
searching. A credit card is needed for printing out the three- or four-sentence paragraphs that the database uses to format
key nuggets of information. Those units bill at $3.25 each. But no fee is charged if users read, but do not print, the results
of their search. It's a great way to get deep background information and only pay for the critical parts.
For additional information, see Audible.com., lexisnexis.com, and realnetworks.com.