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Sidewalk teams old, new media

Microsoft's online publishing venture teams with the Village Voice for coveted event listings.

It could only happen on the Net. The Village Voice, the scrappy alternative weekly, today teamed up with Microsoft, the grandaddy of the software establishment, in an online publishing deal.

Microsoft's Sidewalk, the personal city guide to entertainment, and the Village Voice have joined forces in an events-listing deal. This "strategic business relationship," as the companies describe it, calls for the Voice to provide event listings to New York Sidewalk. In return, Sidewalk will provide the Voice with the technology tools and resources it needs to expand its listings operations.

Sidewalk will not use the Voice's articles, a Sidewalk spokeswoman said. And the Voice's name will not be shown prominently on Sidewalk's side, she added, calling it a "behind the scenes" deal. Both companies declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

The deal is another example of a Web publisher--one of Microsoft's sideline businesses nowadays--extending an olive branch to its would-be competitors in the print and television media. Event listings from the Village Voice are a crown jewel to a Web publisher that is trying to get into the local market.

But competition is stiff.

As reported, Digital City last week launched an affiliate program with newspapers and other local media to drive traffic their way through its channels on America Online. In return, Digital City will provide supplemental content to the newspaper's online sites and share revenue from national ads.

Sidewalk's strategy of teaming up with alternative weeklies seems to be aimed squarely at taking on metropolitan daily newspapers, some analysts said. Sidewalk has struck similar deals with Seattle Weekly and Eastside Week in the Seattle area.

Sidewalk will launch late next month in Seattle, and in 10 to 15 cities nationally, including New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Boston, Washington, and Sydney, Australia, by year's end.

Metro dailies, meanwhile, are running into problems running some of the content from their print publications on their Web sites. The Gate, the site of the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, ran into opposition from United Artists when it tried to run the movie listings on the site. It agreed to run only the movies but not the times.