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NY Times to offer online gaming

The venerable New York Times is getting into the online gaming business, offering a premium service for interactive play for $4.95 per month.

The venerable New York Times is getting into the online gaming business, offering a premium service for interactive play for $4.95 per month.

But don't get out those joysticks just yet. Although the paper formerly known as "The Gray Lady" is jazzing up its Diversions page, players won't be turning to it for Myst or Tomb Raider. Instead, the Times is offering interactive bridge, chess, and backgammon to its Diversions subscribers who use Windows 95 via Passport2.

Those wanting to play the interactive games must already subscribe to Diversions' premium service, which costs $9.95 per month and includes the Times' famed crossword puzzles, the paper's chess and bridge columns, and online forums. The page also has a free trivia game, and offers both a free and premium version of fantasy football.

The new service, announced to the New York Times' Web subscribers as part of an email message about new features on the site, comes amid other changes both in the print and online versions of the newspaper. Newspapers in general increasingly are adding services to their Web sites--such as classified ads, free email, exclusive Net content, and online auctions--in order to garner traffic and advertising dollars. (See related story)

Newspapers are using the Internet to capitalize on their print features as well. Many, such as the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times, have started charging for use of their archives, which are available on the Net. Others have their book reviews featured on bookselling sites such as Amazon.com.

The Times also broke from tradition when it began featuring "Dilbert" cartoons on its site in August, and when the pulp version of the newspaper started publishing color editions in September.

The Times is expanding its move onto the Web in another way as well--its local listings site, New York Today, is expected to launch next month, according to a Times spokeswoman.

However, the Times is attempting to leverage its well-established brand in a crowded market. New York City already has local listings on the Net from the likes of Yahoo, local guide veteran CitySearch, and Microsoft's Sidewalk, among others. Last month, America Online added New York to its roster of local sites with the launch of Digital City New York.