Visiting CNN's new CustomNews site is like watching Headline News - but without the 30-minute wait to hear the top stories or the annoying theme music.
CustomNews (http://customnews.cnn.com), a joint venture with database vendor Oracle, lets headline addicts pick what slices of the CNN feed they want. The personalized-news market is crowded with competitors, but this site is both easier to use and allows more fine-tuning than others.
You can prune your national news updates by state and filter sports reports by team; financial-news fiends can choose which of 39 industries they want to follow. Since the main CustomNews page only shows the top two or three stories in each category, you get a quick headline scan; more stories become available as you drill down into the site's various categories.
Note, however, that these sub-categories aren't updated as often as the top stories, so you may see contradictory headlines: "Shuttle Lifts Off"/"Weather Threatens Shuttle Launch." Many of them are also the same wire stories that the competition serves up. And the people at CNN need to look up "interactive" in their dictionary: I couldn't access CustomNews in Microsoft's Internet Explorer on two different machines, but the site's "help" page didn't list an e-mail address where I could report the problem.
Rob Pegoraro can be reached at rob(at)twp.com