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MS guides through cities

Microsoft formally announces its plans to produce online city entertainment guides, a project that has long been reported on under the code name of Cityscape.

Microsoft (MSFT) today announced its plans to produce online city entertainment guides, a project that has been widely reported under the code name of Cityscape but had not been made official until today.

Microsoft plans to announce the real name for the Cityscape publications in the next couple of weeks. Heading up Cityscape's editorial efforts is Michael Goff, a founder of Out magazine. Goff will lead a national editorial team that will collaborate with staffs in various cities.

"The plan is to help people get the most out of their cities, to give people a service based on a real consumer need, and to give people top-notch editorial quality that is married to some of the best technology in the world," he said.

The free Web-based city guides, the first of which will launch early next year, are part of Microsoft's growing ambitions to become a major media player on the Internet. The Redmond, Washington, software behemoth has already made a multimillion-dollar investment in MSNBC, a cable and Internet news service jointly owned by Microsoft and NBC.

Microsoft also launched online political magazine Slate earlier this year and is developing much of the content for the Microsoft Network subscription-based online service.

Cityscape will be Microsoft's first effort to produce content for specific regions, however. In doing so, the company will compete head to head with traditional newspapers and magazines, as well as online city guides from Yahoo and other Internet companies. The goal is to tap into an estimated $60 billion in local advertising revenue.

Initially, Cityscape will not sell classified advertising, a big source of revenue for newspapers. Instead, it will focus on selling entertainment-related ads. Microsoft has contracted its ad sales efforts out to CUC International of Stamford, Connecticut, which has more than 1,200 representatives.

The first Cityscape edition will launch in Seattle during the first quarter of 1997. Editions for New York, Boston, and San Francisco are scheduled to appear by midyear. By the end of 1997, Microsoft expects to have 10 to 15 city guides online internationally.

The online magazines will feature guides to movies, restaurants, music, arts, and other local events. They will also allow users to personalize content so that they can receive information tailored to their interests.