AOL is looking to resurrect its local entertainment franchise known as City’s Best.
The company said it would roll out 25 local city guides under the AOL City’s Best banner in the majority of major U.S. markets, including New York, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Miami. Much like AOL’s Digital Cities franchise from the 1990s — and its more recent incarnation under the City’s Best brand — the new local channels (all accessible via citysbest.com) will cover restaurants, bars and entertainment.
However, AOL is relaunching City’s Best in an era where the competition is fiercer than ever. Besides longtime rival Citysearch, sites and mobile such as Yelp, Chowhound and UrbanSpoon — along with hundreds of local blogs — all voraciously cover local entertainment options.
Yet AOL is banking on the cross-promotional power of its two other key local ventures, Mapquest and Patch, to put City’s Best back on the radar. For example, content from Patch will be regularly surfaced on local City’s Best sites, and vice versa.
“This is really the third leg of our local stool,” said Jon Brod, president of AOL Ventures, local and mapping.
But the key differentiator this time around, said Brod, is that the City’s Best local channels will blend original editorial (such as reviews) with community. The company has hired five regional editors to oversee five markets each.
Those editors will encourage user participation, such as organized votes on the best fish tacos in Seattle. Fans will be able to vote on the Web or via City’s Best applications for iPhone and Android.
Initially, the City’s Best site will carry standard banner ads and sponsorships, but plans are in the works to launch a self-serve ad product for local businesses down the road. Plus, AOL will look to expand City’s Best to at least 40 markets eventually, including international locales, said Brod.