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CitySearch to guide L.A. Times

Times Mirror will team up with CitySearch to create a local online guide for its flagship Los Angeles Times.

Times Mirror said today that it will team up with CitySearch to create a local online guide for its flagship Los Angeles Times newspaper, the latest instance of "old" media brands venturing into the new online world.

Times Mirror also will buy an undisclosed, equity stake in CitySearch. The company's pact with CitySearch also may be extended to create local services for other Times Mirror newspapers, including Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Morning Call, and the Advocate and Greenwich Time of Stamford, Connecticut, starting next year, executives said.

The deal comes as media giants are striking similar partnerships or striking out on their own. For example, the Tribune Company owns a stake in Digital Cities; Cox Interactive is launching city guides on its own; and Knight-Ridder recently launched an entertainment guide for the San Francisco Bay Area called Just Go.

"We think the local market aspect of the Internet is going to be a big deal over time," said Robert Brisco, Times Mirror senior vice president of marketing and business development.

However, the newspaper company will face competition from others with an established presence online, such as Yahoo, Microsoft, and even Pacific Bell's AtHand. (Last fall, the Los Angeles Times declined to run ads for AtHand, contending it would "diminish the impact of our own marketing efforts.")

All of these services are trying to tap the burgeoning market for Internet advertising. In the case of newspapers and telephone companies, they also want to protect their lucrative businesses in print advertising.

"Our agreement with the Los Angeles Times demonstrates CitySearch's flexibility in working with local media partners who want to build their own local online service," said Charles Conn, chief executive of CitySearch.

The CitySearch-Los Angeles Times venture will launch later this year. It will be rolled out in stages, offering a guide to arts and entertainment, music, movies, restaurants, community activities and events, recreation, merchants, and service providers. It will cover the greater Los Angeles area, from Ventura to the west to Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the east.

The venture's news service will combine features of both the Times site and CitySearch. Users will be able to participate in community forums and discussions, send email to merchants, and personalize the service.

Harry Chandler, director of new media business development for the newspaper, will oversee development of the first phase of the service. He is the son of Otis Chandler, scion of the Los Angeles Times newspaper family.