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Internet

Surfers flocking to local content

The Web may have worldwide reach, but about half its users are overwhelmingly interested in local information, a new report says.

    The Web may have worldwide reach, but about half its users are overwhelmingly interested in local information, according to a report released today.

    The study, authored by research firm Find/SVP, found that 51 Americans online percent of Americans surfing the Web use the medium to access local information such as news, sports, entertainment events, as well as business and residential listings. It added that revenues for sites providing such information could reach $500 million by 2000.

    By comparison, Find/SVP found that 40 percent of Web users in the United States searched for product information, 27 percent looked for investment data and advice, and 14 percent accessed online banking. The report said 66 percent used the Web to get news, but that figure included local news and sports as well.

    There will be a total of 48 million Web surfers by end of 1998, according to Find/SVP, of which some 24 million will be interested in local content.

    "There are certainly some untapped markets out there," said Stuart Gibbel, a spokesman for Find/SVP, adding that it's too early to tell which players in the online local information market will succeed.

    In addition to numerous local newspapers online, Microsoft's Sidewalk, America Online's Digital City, Yahoo, and CitySearch provide local information for major cities in the United States and elsewhere, with more locations coming soon.

    While all these services have put considerable muscle behind their ventures, Gibbel said they may be at a disadvantage. "The people who may be successful are the homegrown newspapers, because they have more reporters and more local information that people want."