Tribune Interactive has added Los Angeles to its list of Metromix city guides, which also include Chicago, Orlando and Baltimore. Next week, it will add New York City as well. Eventually, Tribune aims to have the Metromix brand in all its newspaper and TV markets.
The availability of Metromix in several top markets makes it suitable for more national advertising dollars, especially from the movie studios, which have proved to be an especially great fit, as people look for things to do in their communities. This was true even before the launch of the highly visible L.A. site (think “Company Town”).
Landing studio accounts, in fact, is probably going to be job No. 1 for Tribune Interactive National Ad Sales Director Donna Stokely, who is based in L.A. (and auto ads are probably #2). The L.A. kickoff is being accompanied by major advertising efforts on TV and in theaters. Watching the studio business fall off (and to some extent go to Yahoo!) has been an especially sore point for The L.A. Times.
Metromix, as a brand, actually has quite a history. It was developed in 1995 at great expense by Quantum Leap, part of the Leap Group, and then taken in-house to standardize with other Tribune content. The site basically served as the Chicago Tribune’s City Guide after Digital City, the Tribune’s JV with AOL, didn’t pan out.
Since its founding, the site has consistently been among the best city guides, appealing to local and tourists alike (but emphasizing locals). One reason for its excellence, probably, is that it has always had its own editorial staff – although with the expansion, I see that some of the articles and features are being syndicated to other sites (so far, with little damage, so long as you like Chicago-based bands. Just kidding).
The current edition of Metromix sports state-of-the-art big TV-like windows for articles and videos. It also has event listings and various types of user-generated content that is getting really good participation.
In Chicago, the service is available for wireless and PDA, and there are also e-mail newsletter editions. The content is also leveraged for Chicago’s RedEye metro paper. Corporate-wide, the site’s general appeal is that it is a “reach extender” that adds a user base that might not normally look at a metro paper. Chicagosports.com serves the same purpose.
The Metromix expansion, along with other new city guides from many other newspapers, is actually making me rethink what the value of city guides are, circa 2007. In their earliest days, the online role of newspapers and city guides seemed interchangeable. But now, that is obviously not the case – for them, or for local portal sites, like Citysearch. They really are just about where to go and what to do, with some side commentary on the zeitgeist (i.e., dining, concert, art and theater reviews).
Certainly, the city guides aren’t really being integrated with the newspapers. And they haven’t morphed into hyper-local community, or Yellow Pages either. The same goes for social sites, although there are good links to MySpace pages.
In fact, it has finally dawned on me that news, hyper-local community, Yellow Pages and entertainment are never going to occupy the same “local information hub.” For me, that’s quite a revelation. What we need to figure out is where they do organically fit together – category by category.