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Knight Ridder combines news site into city guides

The newspaper publisher folds the Web site of the San Jose Mercury News into its BayArea.com local Web guide, a move that consolidates some of its top Web holdings.

Newspaper publisher Knight Ridder said Tuesday it has folded the Web site of the San Jose Mercury News into its BayArea.com local Web guide, a move that consolidates some of its top Web holdings.

The announcement is Knight Ridder's latest attempt to solidify its position as a source for local information online. The newspaper chain has built a network of local city guides on the backs of its publications, which include The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Detroit Free Press and The Miami Herald.

Company executives insist the Mercury Center, launched online in 1994, is not disappearing; instead, it will be integrated into BayArea.com.

"We want our visitors to know, and we want to be perfectly clear, Mercury Center is not going away--rather we are building on our prior success and giving consumers a whole lot more on BayArea.com and making the user experience simple but robust," Lisa Romano, vice president of marketing and business development for KnightRidder.com, said in a statement.

Knight Ridder in 1999 began dipping its toe into the local Web guide market. That August, the company launched BayArea.com, which combined resources from its San Francisco Bay Area newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Newspapers. The following month, the local guide network, dubbed Real Cities, was launched as the focal point of the company's Web initiative.

In November 1999, KnightRidder.com was created to manage and control the company's Internet holdings. The move was largely viewed as the publisher's attempt to tap then-skyrocketing Internet valuations. But the market downturn tempered the company's aspirations.