PointCast Inc, the biggest of the 'push' Web services providing Internet users with constantly updated information, has come up with a new way to pull advertising dollars its way. From this month, the company will make its network available to publishers for testing. Anyone - from a local business or soccer league to established Web sites such as Microsoft Expedia - will be able to broadcast content in English, at no charge, to PointCast's readership of more than one million registered viewers. 'We expect that this will create a cottage industry of small publishers,' Joseph Pistritto, vice-president of systems engineering, said recently in an interview at Internet World in Los Angeles. PointCast benefits in two ways. The company expects that the new service will attract a larger registered audience and boost paid advertising on its network. By opening its network to the public, PointCast might also be better positioned to fend off competition from newer push services such as Marimba and Backweb. Marimba can push programs on to a computer, in addition to information. Backweb works behind the scenes while the user is on the Internet, making information updates more quickly than other services. Digital Bindery, another new push technology company, is a free service for subscribers and publishers that delivers updated Web pages directly to users' e-mail boxes daily. Publishers also receive regular demographic statistics reports on the number and geographic distribution of people who have chosen to receive their pages. PointCast's service, called PointCast Connections, will allow publishers to use industry-standard HTML (hyper-text markup language) and PointCast's open channel format to broadcast information. Since the information will go out over PointCast's network, publishers will not have to invest in application development and servers. In addition, publishers will not need to know how to program in C++ or Java. Publishing is as simple as registering and using the Web site's PointCast Publisher application, which has a function to walk new users through the process. Companies will be able to manage the Connections channel by designating a preferred list of Web publishers, or by opting to view only office-appropriate content, as classified by a third-party rating service. Publishers will be able to control access to their pages over PointCast by maintaining a list of user identification codes and passwords. Up to now, PointCast has largely limited itself to alliances with large media organisations, including CNN, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times . Last month, the network announced agreements with The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition and Ziff-Davis' ZD Net. PointCast works in the opposite way to most Web sites. Instead of waiting for users to search the Web for information, it acts like a television network and broadcasts information from user-selected 'channels' directly to users' computers through a screen-saver format whenever the computers are idle. The network can be downloaded free at www.point cast.com but, like television, it comes with a few strings attached: advertisements. PointCast has announced plans to make the network available in Japan through a partnership with Trans Cosmos and is planning to launch versions in Asia and Europe this year.