By: STEVE OUTING
STATEMENTS BY MICROSOFT chairman Bill Gates at the recent Newspaper Association of America annual convention implied that publishers shouldn’t fear his company’s Sidewalk local online entertainment guides.
Few publishers are buying that line, and newspapers are responding by creating local online entertainment guides of their own.
Three days after Gates delivered his speech asking newspaper publishers to partner with local Sidewalk operations, Knight-Ridder launched its own Sidewalk-like online entertainment guide, called JustGo.
Using technology developed by Zip2, the first JustGo site (http://www.justgo.com/bayarea) will serve the Bay Area of California and be operated by the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, both Knight-Ridder properties.
The JustGo guides “are our effort to beat Microsoft to the punch,” says Bill Skeet of Knight-Ridder New Media in San Jose.
Next up is the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press, followed by the Philadelphia newspapers and the Miami Herald; eventually all Knight-Ridder papers that operate Web sites will add the JustGo entertainment guide service.
Skeet says the timeline for rollout for JustGo is to implement it in 15 or more markets within the next year. If that schedule can be kept, it’s a more aggressive timetable than Microsoft has set for launching its Sidewalk guides in various cities.
The newspaper company has felt the pressure to enter the Bay Area online entertainment guide market in a big way to compete against online city guides already in place. The San Francisco region already has guides from CitySearch, Pacific Bell (At Hand), and Yahoo! San Francisco. Sidewalk is coming to the Bay Area but has not launched yet.
In other Knight-Ridder markets, the threat looms. “We want to make sure that our newspapers are secure before the [competition] comes in,” says Skeet.
The JustGo service is part of Zip2’s A&E product, an arts and entertainment service template that is operated as a partnership between Zip2 and newspaper publishers. The product is customized for each publisher, and Zip2 is paid a set-up fee, negligible monthly charges, and a share of between 20% and 50% of advertising revenue generated on the site, according to Zip2 founder and director of product marketing Kimbal Musk.
The revenue model for the service is primarily advertising based. Musk explains that the newspapers’ sales force will be selling local businesses placements in the entertainment guides as well as directory listings in Zip2’s local online business directory service (an existing product launched last year). Unlike the directory, not every entertainment-oriented business will get a free listing in the entertainment guide ? though they can be listed free, say in a directory of restaurants, if they ask.
Businesses such as restaurants and theaters can purchase enhanced listings, which might include an online menu, photos of the restaurant, coupons, etc.
There’s also a fax service that a restaurant can use to accept reservations over the Internet. A consumer using the entertainment guide would make a reservation by filling out a Web form, and Zip2 sends a fax to the restaurant. When the restaurant faxes back a confirmation, the Zip2 system converts the fax to a GIF image and notifies the user that it can be viewed on a unique Web page.
Restaurants also can pay to be a “featured venue” on a restaurant guide page. (These are identified as being advertisements.)
?(Outing writes the “Stop the Presses!” column on E&P Interactive.) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher, May 10, 1997)