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Big names back Sidewalk

City directory companies stockpile their ammo for an all-out battle later this year.

City directory companies are lining up their ammo for an all-out battle that is expected later this year.

With the launch of its city guide Sidewalk for Seattle late next month, Microsoft (MSFT) today released a list of nine national advertisers. The group includes Bank of America and Seafirst Bank, Barnes & Noble, BMW of North America, CitiBank, Club Med Sales, Prudential Real Estate, United Airlines, and Visa U.S.A.

"These advertising sponsors understand that the Sidewalk content reaches residents as they're about to go, see, do, and spend, which gives advertisers exposure to these consumers at the right time, when they're poised and ready to buy," said Frank Schott, publisher and general manager of Sidewalk in a statement.

Like newspapers, city directories let advertisers target a specific market. Microsoft did not say how much the advertisers paid or how long the ad contracts would last. National advertising sponsors will be joined by local and regional buyers who can target their message at one city or region.

Sidewalk is set to launch in Seattle in March, followed by New York, Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Sydney, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Denver, with a total of 10 to 15 cities in 1997.

But competition will be stiff. Digital City next month is expected to roll out a strategy for expanding to the Web, and CitySearch, Yahoo, and Cox Enterprises continue to roll out their own city directories.

Many analysts say the quality of the content, not the sponsor name recognition, ultimately will determine who wins these battles.

Also today, CitySearch and Time Out New York announced a partnership to offer arts and entertainment information for New York City. The deal calls for Time Out New York to have its own area within CitySearch NYC. Features also will include restraunt, bar and film reviews.