Gates woos newspaper publishers

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Microsoft Corp. is looking to partner with newspapers, not compete, Chairman Bill Gates told publishers Tuesday at the annual Newspaper Association of America conference in Chicago. His message, however, was met with skepticism by audience members who will now be competing with Microsoft's entertainment and restaurant guide, Sidewalk, in their local markets for advertising and readers.

"If you don't believe that Microsoft is a competitor for your reader's time and advertising dollars, just wait," said Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times, in his introduction.

"Microsoft is not in competition with newspapers. Think of us as your partners," Mr. Gates told the 1,200 attendees. "Sidewalk is not doing local news or classifieds. If someone were, then you would have to worry." When challeged by Robert Ingle, VP of online operations for Knight-Ridder, that selling advertising and doing listings on an entertainment guide "is akin to classifieds advertising" and therefore a direct competitor, Mr. Gates replied, "Many people are selling advertising. I assume you all watch TV. I come from a business where people are competing with each other all the time while also partnering with each other."

Mr. Gates challenged the members of the NAA to do more online than just repurpose content. "As people get more experienced, their expectations are going up. Republishing is not enough," he said. He stressed that content should be up to date, more in depth than in print, use audio and video, and most importantly, should be personalized--an area Microsoft is developing turn-key tools for.

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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