Magazine article Editor & Publisher

City Guide Wars: Northwest Version

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

City Guide Wars: Northwest Version

Article excerpt

Seattle Times' new media honcho, Nancy Bruner,

says she doesn't have time to check out the

competition in the local city guide war. She says

she's too busy making sure that her online

newspaper's arts and entertainment feature,

called Datebook, stays ahead of the curve. And

it's a hell of a curve.

In what is one of the most competitive online

local information markets in the country, Bruner

competes against Microsoft's hometown

Sidewalk site as well as Yahoo!

Seattle, U.S. West's

Seattle city guide,

America Online's

DigitalCity, and dozens

of locally created city

guides in a region dense with programming and

Internet expertise. Very shortly, Cox Interactive

Media will also join the fray by opening a Seattle

site in its national network of city guides.

William Bass, an analyst at Forrester Research

Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., says there will

eventually be a shakeout in the ultra-competitive

city guide market and the winners will most

likely be traditional media outlets, like

newspapers, that already have a history of

providing credible content and context. In fact,

despite the rush to create city guides, making

money with these virtual ventures is still more a

wish than reality.

Microsoft's deep pockets

The latest case in point is Microsoft.

Although it has the deepest pockets of any city

guide operator, it has recently reduced the

national staff and refocused the operations of

Sidewalk. It also plans to launch 40 new

Sidewalk sites this year.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Times' Datebook,

which debuted in October 1996, continues

working to "out city guide" Microsoft in its own

backyard.

Harnessing the resources and depth of the

newspaper's editorial staff, Datebook provides

pages of entertainment listings, concerts, films,

restaurants and books.

"We are pretty much focused on what the

market wants. I don't really feel that we're

competing," said Bruner who appears to favor

the time-honored strategy of fighting rivals by

seeming to ignore them.

Her confidence is also bolstered by the

traditions, community relationships and in-depth

institutional knowledge that have accrued at the

Times during the last century.

She's also a pragmatist willing to accommodate

market realities in any way that helps boost

Datebook. For instance, although Datebook

competes with Yahoo! Seattle on one

front, the two cooperate

closely on others.

At Yahoo! Seattle, users

can read the latest

restaurant reviews or

search the Seattle

Times' database of more than 1,600 restaurants.

In addition, most of the newspaper's arts and

entertainment features and even news headlines

also turn up on Yahoo! …

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