Gunning for Information: Pop-up Desktop News


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For some industries, access to real-time information provides calculable advantages. Take the investment sector, for one. Successful traders require an almost extra-sensory ability to intuit the ways in which major mergers and minor management changes will affect a stock's worth. These shifts can occur minute-by-minute and translate into to hard-earned or hard-lost money measured in seconds. When Steve Burrows worked as a trader, he saw that stocks reacted to news. "But by the time I got news," says Burrows, "the stock had already reacted."

So Burrows who, before working as a trader "was with a start-up company that suffered the same fate as a lot of dotcoms," went looking for a way to get news faster than his fellow traders, but came up empty handed. "To get news you want," says Burrows "you have to be on the lookout for it. These days, it's not humanly possible to keep tabs on that much information." And—necessity spawning invention as it will—Burrows, founded News Technologies LLC, gathered up some engineers, and built TriggerNews.

TriggerNews is a relatively low-cost subscription news service (starting at $12.95 per month) that instantly delivers targeted news to subscribers based on user-defined parameters, called triggers, such as company name, stock symbol, and/or keyword phrases. When any of these triggers match an identical word or phrase in the subject header of a news release, a pop-up alert window instantly appears on the user's computer display.

The underlying technology for the service is the TriggerEngine core, which scans, matches, filters, and routes only selected news to individual users. Full processing of news releases occurs within seconds of the time they are received from content providers to the time they are delivered to the user as a pop-up. Several patents were filed on the technology and are currently pending approval with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Currently, TriggerNews proffers content from partners that include the Associated Press, iWire, PR Newswire, Business Wire, Defense-Aerospace.com, the FDA, and Vickers Stock Research. These relationships are indicative of TriggerNews' first wave of market targets, which features verticals like financial, insurance, telecom, and pharmaceutical. In fact, Burrows has developed suggested or introductory trigger lists for many of these industries to help them understand how best to use the service.

Pop-up news alerts could become pretty overwhelming if they weren't pared down to just the essentials. According to Burrows, "The whole point of having news triggered is to minimize the news you get. It runs as a background process and then bang, just the news you want appears." As such, he helps clients tailor their triggers and limits the number of triggers to 50. "We don't want to give them too much information," he says.

Gary Yomantas, president of New Hampshire Ball Bearing, which has a Japanese parent company, but produces Aerospace Products in the U.S., has been beta-testing TriggerNews for the past several months. Yomantas uses about 30 triggers and believes that the better your filters, the better the system works. He likes getting the information "well in advance of traditional sources like Web sites or CNN" to help guide acquisition decisions as well as to monitor industry shifts that will affect his company. Previously, he says, "I'd have to go look for news. Now, all I do is list triggers and news comes to me. My office moves with me and all I have to do is be online and I get the information I need." When Yomantas finds he's getting too much or too little of news he wants, he modifies the triggers—like one would modify a search—to adjust the filter.

Burrows has plans to increase and diversify content providers, but also to be selective. He's planning to increase the amount of international content and to pursue other compulsively news-demanding verticals like sports and entertainment. A wireless edition of trigger news may also lie in the company's future. For the moment, though, Burrows is pleased to transition the product from its one-year of beta-testing to its release in February. "Our goal," says Burrows, "is to pipe out the most important meaningful information we can within five seconds of our receiving it."