In a trend that runs counter to the Web's global nature, newspapers, online services and even search engines are coming up with ways to slice and dice the Web into segments that appeal to both consumers and advertisers.
The New Century Network, a consortium of newspaper companies-including Cox Communications, Hearst Corp., Times Mirror Co. and The New York Times Co.-by May will roll out formal development and marketing plans for its members' regional services, said Peter Winter, interim CEO for the group and VP-market development at Cox.
In the meantime, Mr. Winter said that regional sites such as Advance Publications' New Jersey Online (http://www.nj.com) and New York's Metrobeat (http://www.metrobeat.com) can offer targeted advertiser benefits.
"They deliver qualified au-diences in a direct marketing situation," he said.
Like many regional services, the recently launched New Jersey Online would like to establish its local service as a jumping-off point for users-the place where they start their day.
"I'll be happy if we can get our audience to spend 20 minutes a day on the site," said New Jersey Online President Peter Levitan.
The service also launched Journal Square Interactive, an in-house agency that oversees content syndication and distribution of interactive advertising for marketers. Its first client: Nabisco Direct, Parsippany, N.J.
"I believe in the 80-20 rule," said Mr. Levitan, a former Saatchi & Saatchi executive. "About 80% of all transactions happen within 20 miles of your house."
To that end, he's also selling ads in a price range that mom-and-pop marketers can afford: from $450 to $9,000 per month.
Advance plans to replicate the New Jersey Online model in Michigan.
On the West Coast, Times Mirror in March will syndicate regional content from its newly acquired Hollywood Online across multiple newspaper brands, beginning with the Los Angeles Times, which goes on the Web next month.
Web search service Yahoo Corp. also is planning to create regional editions, said Jeff Mallett, senior VP-business operations.
The company is creating a Japanese version of its service and said the trend could continue into regional U.S. editions.
America Online, meanwhile, will introduce its first Digital City this year in Washington. The service plans to launch regional editions in 20 cities this year.
AOL members can access specialized content via the Virtual City; however, non-AOL members can also access the sites from the Web at http://www.digitalcity.com.
"We've recommitted ourselves to this over the past year," said Bob Smith, VP-general manager of Digital City. "The tools are there."
Digital City will cultivate "Greenhouse"-type content ventures in local markets. Advertisers could eventually make a "network" buy and customize them for local markets.