Web guides try to become more localized

NEW YORK -- It takes more than lists to make a city guide thrive, according to panelists at a Jupiter Communications Inc. conference here.

NEW YORK -- It takes more than lists to make a city guide thrive, according to panelists at a Jupiter Communications Inc. conference here.

Traffic doubles when a city site combines listings and schedules with local newspaper content such as restaurant reviews, said Rich Sorkin, CEO of Zip2 Corp., which partners with companies to provide local guides. When the media content sites cross-promoted the guide, either through links, or by traditional advertising, traffic rose as much as 10 times, Sorkin said.

The statement was echoed by other guide companies.

"Local media partners matter a huge amount," said Charles Conn, CEO of CitySearch. Conn said that at this point, the whole concept of city guides is still fairly new, so companies such as his are actually building a genre more than building their individual brands. Giving Web viewers a name they know and trust helps, and local partners can also provide a local sales force.

Slate halfway to subscription goal.

Newspapers, like the Washington Post, are publishing their own guides.

But getting the local partners to sign on can be a challenge, though.

For instance, the New York Daily News has rebuffed several major brands that wanted to link to it, said Sandra Heddon, managing editor of new media at the Daily News.

"They all offered the promise of traffic, in exchange for valuable content and time that we frankly don't have," she said.

Still, Heddon said the Daily News has learned the wisdom of using its own name to draw traffic, and plans to relaunch its mostNEWYORK site later this year as the Daily News Online, with a greater focus on the newspaper's content.

There are not hard and fast rules on these topics, of course. The New York Times' new local city guide will be called New York Today. Microsoft Corp.'s Sidewalk local-content guide is moving toward more focus on lists, and away from specific content.

In general, too, local content sites have a ways to go.

Bob Ryan, director of new media at the San Jose Mercury News' Mercury Center, said he recently was trying to find a florist between his home and office so he could stop on the way to work and pick up an arrangement for a colleague. But by the time his wife had looked through the Yellow Pages, found a florist, and placed the order, his computer hadn't even finished booting up.

"The Internet is going to change everything," he said. "But it's going to take longer than everyone thought."


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