New York City Businesses Get Own Map App

Partnership between NYC & Co. and CityMaps

New York City is putting itself on the map (pun horrifically intended). Today the city’s marketing, tourism and partnership organization NYC & Company launched the NYC Map mobile app in partnership with homegrown startup CityMaps, with plans to orchestrate an extensive marketing program to promote the app as the city’s de facto tour guide.

NYC Map plots nearly 90,000 local businesses on a map spanning the five boroughs. The layout mirrors CityMap’s existing Web and mobile apps in that business locations are represented graphically by their logos. “Our visitor mix is such that there are people who might not speak English, [so] seeing something like logos that resonate at a global level makes a lot of sense,” said Willy Wong, chief creative officer at NYC and Co.

When users tap on a logo, they can view information culled by CityMaps for that specific location. For example, tapping on a restaurant can pull up the menu and the ability to make a reservation via OpenTable, while parking garages can market their rates and movie theaters can display show times and trailers. In addition, alongside all applicable locations, users will be able to find photos and tips pulled from Foursquare.

But, the more interesting feature of the new app is the up-to-the-minute info layered onto the locations, said CityMaps co-founder and president Aaron Rudenstine.  As users explore the app, they’ll find blinking blue Twitter birds and green dollar signs augmenting select locations. The Twitter birds will surfact a local business’s relevant geotagged tweets which might otherwise go unnoticed if a business lacks ample Twitter followers.

“Unless you’re Starbucks or Whole Foods, you really don’t have a lot of Twitter followers if you’re a business, and it’s because for the most part people don’t want to follow 20 or 30 local bars or restaurants or boutiques,” Rudenstine said.

The dollar signs alert users to deals for a nearby location and are pulled from hundreds of deal sites like Groupon. As part of NYC & Co.’s involvement, CityMaps will be highlighting deals from the organization’s member businesses.

NYC & Co. and CityMaps started talking about the app possibility a year ago because the organization wanted to establish a mobile presence beyond its mobile site. Wong said NYC & Co. chose CityMaps instead of other possible partners with map products such as Google because of its user-centric approach to navigation.

“A lot of the other products out there right now are based on searching…Here it’s almost like the results are right in front of you. You can still search, but it kind of inverts it a little bit,” he said.

To get an idea as to how invested NYC & Co. is in the app, look no further than Times Square. As part of a $1 million-plus marketing push that begins rolling out today and continuing through August, NYC & Co. will run videos on the Toshiba screens in Times Square as well as in TV-equipped taxi cabs. And bus shelters and newsstands throughout the city will also feature signage advertising the app.

CityMaps revamped its backend a few months ago in anticipation of the usage flood the marketing push will likely bring, and the startup already has eyes on how to expand the app. The company is in talks with NYC & Co. about how it can apply the app to Restaurant Week, which the tourism organization runs, and is also looking at how the app can be used for the multitude of conferences New York hosts throughout the year. The CityMaps team is also working on a London version of the app to launch ahead of this year’s Summer Olympics.

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