Internet

The battle of Big Apple city guides

AOL announces the launch of Digital City New York, but the New York Times is not far behind with its own offering--"New York Today."

The battle of the city guides in the Big Apple is about to begin.

America Online today announced the launch of Digital City New York, the newest of its 32 souped-up online city guides, but the New York Times is not far behind with its own offering--New York Today.

In October, the Times announced it would enter the city guide market with its interactive site for people who are living in, doing business in, or visiting the Big Apple, and sources say the company quietly has been adding some top-notch interactive talent from the East and "Left" coasts. New York Today will launch in the first quarter of this year, a spokeswoman said today.

For its part, AOL said its site would offer "expert opinion and a virtual neighborhood" on the Web and the AOL Network. Digital City New York has seven departments, including news, sports, movies, and dining. Its content partners include Playbill, NY1, and WABC-TV.

Its advertisers include American Express, Barnes & Noble, and Bloomingdales.

AOL also said the New York site marks the rollout of "Digital City 2.0," which will include upgraded features and will be offered on the Web and AOL's proprietary online service.

Competition for ad dollars on these sites is stiff, however. It includes local guide veteran CitySearch, Microsoft's Sidewalk and Yahoo as well as most major newspaper chains. Telecommunications giants such as US West also offer city guides. Analysts expect a shakeout.