The good thing about CNN is that it gives you news anytime you want it. The bad thing is, you're not necessarily going to see the news you want when you want the news. Now the network that introduced all-news TV has come up with a unique solution to the problem. You tell CNN what or who interests you, and they'll fax, page, email or phone you with a heads-up about when to tune in. They call it "appointment television."

CNN has rolled out the service in 10 cable systems around the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Subscribers can choose from 459 different topics and an unlimited number of newsmakers. The network charges you (through your phone bill) based on the number of notifications in a month--from $3 for 20 up to $10 for 75--plus a $5 annual fee. "This isn't a money-making venture for us," says CNN spokeswoman Dawn Echols.

The network figures that companies who want to track competitors or issues, public-relations executives, political-campaign strategists and just plain news junkies will want the service. CNN is on a perpetual quest to build a steady audience--its ratings tend to spike up and down dramatically as hot news ebbs and flows--and now it also needs an edge against all-news competition from MSNBC and, soon, Fox.

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