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The new home shopping network

The Los Angeles Times jumps into online real estate listings to keep the paper competitive with the burgeoning online market.

The Los Angeles Times jumped on the online classifieds bandwagon today with real estate listings that hope to keep the paper competitive with the burgeoning online market.

The move didn't come a minute too soon, according to Bradley Inman, publisher of Inman Real Estate News.

Home buyers are heading into cyberspace in droves. and they already have plenty of sites from which to choose their new homes, including other newspapers, such as the San Diego Union Tribune and the Boston Globe.

National newspapers have been hesitant to put their classifieds online, because they are worried about cannibalizing their existing business: newspapers. The Times had to offer online real estate ads to remain competitive in a growing Internet marketplace for real estate listings and other reader services, most of which available for free.

"If they're not participating in this new medium, they're going to lose the franchise to the Internet," Inman said. "They're just going to lose a big chunk of change."

But today's move not only puts the paper in step with its competition but slightly ahead of some other newspapers, Inman said, because the Times is offering richer listings rather than simply shoveling its print ads online.

The Times' site provides the California Association of Realtors' multiple listing service, a comprehensive listing of all homes being sold through CAR. The association currently supplies listings to Yahoo and is also in negotiations with other sites.

Officials said they couldn't be more pleased with the Times partnership. "It gives our members another opportunity to expose our property inventory," said Walt McDonald, chairman of Real Estate Business Services Inc., a subsidiary of CAR.

Times online readers, who have been clamoring for real estate ads since the paper launched its site earlier this year, will also benefit, said Renee LaBran, LA Times' director of new business development and strategic planning. She added that the ads will not cut into the profit margin of the paper's print edition, at least for now.

"Certainly at some point, online will compete with the newspaper," she said. Meanwhile, "we haven't seen a dent in our print advertising because of online advertising."

The Times site allows users not only to search for homes specifically according to desired price and location, but also allows them to get community profiles and news stories about those communities.

Elann Williams, the Internet coordinator for The Prudential-Jon Douglas Company, which also has a searchable Web site, said the Times listings can only boost business.

"If anything, it helps us," Williams said. "The Los Angeles Times is one of our biggest advertising points. Real estate on the Internet will affect everyone. You don't have to deal with pushy people. You don't have to deal with people who are overly friendly. This is the total home shopping network."