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Mercury Center gets new look

The online edition of the San Jose Mercury News launches a redesign to include more multimedia and updates of breaking news.

Mercury Center, the online edition of the San Jose Mercury News, today launched a redesign to include more updates of breaking news, sound clips and video clips, and improved navigation.

As reported last week, Mercury Center executives confirmed that the company is considering changing its pricing system, including the possibility of becoming a free site. But no decision has been made, center director Bob Ryan said.

The redesign of the nearly five-year-old Mercury Center, which will be officially announced at the Internet World industry conference in New York next Wednesday, represents the continued expansion on the Web by the print news media. They are battling with other print media companies, Internet start-ups, and high-tech giants such as Microsoft to capture advertising dollars on the Net. The Mercury News, a suburban daily that circulates in Silicon Valley, is owned by the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain.

"This week, Mercury Center undergoes its most far-reaching changes since arriving on the World Wide Web in December 1994," Ryan said in a letter to Mercury Center readers.

A message on the site read, "The new design provides improved navigation, a better appearance for news, promotion and advertising, and faster downloads."

The changes also include larger standard advertising banners and the use of an ad management and tracking application called NetGravity. Some pages, such as sports, haven't yet been redesigned.

Mercury Center now charges $2.95 per month for subscribers of the print edition and $4.95 per month for nonsubscribers. Most online sites run by metropolitan daily newspapers are free. Mercury Center's paid subscribership is estimated at more than 10,000.

Breaking news will be updated daily from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with reports from the Mercury News staff. Some on the staff have expressed concern that publishing their stories online could tip off the print competition, but the explosive growth of the Web is blurring the line between print and online editions.

Last month, Knight-Ridder announced the launch of a network of its 32 newspaper sites, dubbed Real Cities, to compete with online city guides such as Microsoft's Sidewalk, Yahoo's local sites, Digital Cities, and others. The plan is akin to that of Cox Communications, another print media giant, which is launching a series of sites around its newspaper and television properties.