INTERACTIVE: GIVING THE WEB A LOCAL FALVOR: CITY SITES INVITE CONSUMERS ONLINE FOR SCOOP ON THE HOMETWON SCENE

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The World Wide Web may be global, but right now, the attention is all local.

Want to learn about the hot new restaurant downtown? That city magazine is old news. You can log onto Microsoft Sidewalk instead. Want to find out when your son's high school football team plays its next home game? Check out your local Digital City site.

Aimed squarely at the everyday consumer, local online media are out to prove they're every bit as convenient and easy to use as picking up your local paper or turning on your evening news.

Advertising Age estimates local sites will spend at least $50 million to market themselves between now and yearend--and that doesn't include all the free advertising newspapers, TV stations and radio stations will run hawking their online properties.

The key issue all these properties face is relevance. Broadcasting the evening news is one thing; extending that franchise to the Web is quite a different challenge. Same goes for advertising. It's easy to sell local TV avails. It's much harder to convince that car dealer or carpet store that they need to be online, too.

As the Internet marketplace matures, the biggest growth potential may indeed be on the home front. If local services succeed in reaching their goals, businesses ranging from Yellow Pages directories to phone companies to grocery stores all will be impacted.

At that point, the battle for the local consumer won't just be between competing online services. It will touch the lives--and livelihoods--of everyone.

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