US West Communications has decided that local content is the place to be on the Internet.
Tomorrow, a division of the cable and telecommunications company will launch DiveIn, its own branded, community-based Web sites in 10 cities. The sites will feature local news and entertainment information in addition to city guides.
US West is moving into an increasingly crowded market, where it will bump heads with Microsoft Corp.'s SideWalk and Yahoo's city guides. But Tom Cullen, vice president of business development at US West Interactive Services, said he is not concerned at this point with competition from Microsoft, Yahoo or other local offerings.
"This category is still in the early stages of development. We don't think it's all that bad to have several competitors, because we are collectively raising the consciousness of users that there's good local content out there," Cullen said.
But that doesn't mean he thinks US West doesn't have a competitive advantage over the other services.
Five of the DiveIn cities--Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Fla.--are in US West's cable territory, and the other five--Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.--are in the company's telephone coverage area.
"We have a strong local presence in the community already. We have established sales relationships. This gives [sales representatives] something else to sell," Cullen said.
And the company plans to use the services to boost its own offerings, eventually tying in the cable services, a move that would open up a vista of possibilities to customers who could do then do things such as check their bills online. However, federal laws prohibit the company from linking the service to the telephone company operations, Cullen said.
"We'll definitely link to [Atlanta cable company] Media One. We'll have it positioned so you can go find out the cable lineup and see what's on pay-per-view," he said. Cullen added that service offerings such as checking bills should be available within the year.
How does US West intend to make money? Cullen said the governing assumption is that local and national ads will run on the site. However, he noted that "we believe that we're going to have to stay nimble and flexible.
"Predicting where the Internet will be in a year, or a year and a half, is [hard]," he said. "But if we build a service users routinely access for local information, we're confident ads will follow."