The move is Knight Ridder's attempt to create Web businesses out of its myriad newspaper outlets and to increase its Web presence. The sites will combine news from the chain's regional newspapers with popular Web offerings, such as free email, a search engine, and a section for online retail.
A Knight Ridder spokeswoman confirmed the "essence" of the report.
The launch comes as local Web sites, such as America Online's Digital City and CitySearch, are increasingly posing a threat to newspapers by encroaching into their classified ad revenues.
With the announcement, Knight Ridder will introduce four of its newest local sites: Bayarea.com, Miami.com, Broward.com, and Twincities.com. Realcities.com will become the network's home page. The sites already are live on the Web.
In addition, the company said it will pursue partnerships with other media outlets in non-Knight Ridder markets for its Web sites.
As first reported, the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Newspapers, both Knight Ridder properties, last month launched a preview version of Bayarea.com for the San Francisco Bay Area. The Mercury News purchased the domain name Bayarea.com for an undisclosed amount in May.