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n the ad business, it's no longer cool just to be online. Now there's "offline" as well.

PointCast, a Cupertino, Calif., company, last week introduced PCN, a free, ad-supported news delivery service that automatically culls Web news sites for information and downloads it to a specially formatted computer screen saver (http://www.pointcast.com).

FreeLoader, a Washing-ton-based company (http://www.freeloader.net), and Digital Delivery, New York (http://delivery.reach.com), are testing other offline delivery systems.

Users of PointCast can choose among various interest categories from publishing partners including Reuters, SportsTicker and the Los Angeles Times. The system requires a computer to be connected online at all times, meaning its initial audience will be primarily business users whose workplace provides a constant connection. Dial-up software will be available later.

Beyond the Banner

The PointCast system takes advertising beyond the online "banner." The first screen contains two ads: a logo and an animated commercial (created for the advertiser by PointCast). Six charter advertisers-Prodigy, Elec-tronic Data Systems, Quarterdeck, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fidelity Investments and Saturn Corp.-each paid $40,000 for a three-month sponsorship.

Web publishers' ads are left out of the equation, however. When PCN downloads information from various sites, their ads don't go along.

A System for Publishers

Digital Delivery is developing software that individual publishers can use to deliver data and ads together.

"What we can do is verify that a delivery took place [and] that an ad was opened," said Don Tydeman, partner in the company.

FreeLoader, meanwhile, is testing software that can download users' favorite Web pages periodically. The company claims the system will offer time-sensitive and targeted ad opportunities.

Aside from the charter spon- sors, PointCast is offering marketers a free, one-month evaluation. Starting next year, pricing will be $2.50 per thousand impressions.

Although the service will have extensive data on user interests, PointCast will not readily release it. "We do not spy on our viewers," said PointCast President Christopher Hassett.

Debra Aho Williamson contributed to this story.

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