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Newspaper bids on Bayarea.com domain

California's San Jose Mercury News is quietly bidding for the domain name, apparently trying to build a regional guide for the San Francisco Bay Area.

The San Jose Mercury News quietly is bidding for the domain name Bayarea.com, apparently trying to build a regional Internet guide for the San Francisco Bay Area, sources said.

George Navas, president of Bay Area Internet Solutions, a Santa Clara, California-based Internet service provider that owns the domain name, confirmed today that the Mercury News has bid for the Bayarea.com domain name.

Sources estimated that the Mercury News' bid runs in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Navas said he acquired the domain name about three years ago for just $100--then the going rate for domain-name registration for two years. Navas said he plans to sell the Bayarea.com domain name to the highest bidder but keep the Bayarea.net URL.

This is the latest example of fierce bidding for Net domain names. Newspapers are looking to expand onto the Net while at the same time protecting their own advertising turf from online firms. In many cases, the market value of Net companies--Yahoo and America Online, for example--exceeds that of longtime media giants, including the Mercury News' parent, Knight Ridder.

Navas said no deal has been signed between the Mercury News and his ISP, however, adding that other parties are interested in buying the domain name. Navas said the newspaper has considered other URLs as well but considers Bayarea.com to be a prime candidate.

Doug Edwards, brand group manager for Mercury Center, who supposedly is spearheading the project, could not be reached for comment. Sources there confirmed that the newspaper has an interest in the domain name, however.

Knight Ridder has been launching regional Internet guides throughout the country, where it owns newspapers. One example: KansasCity.com, which provides news, community information, free email, and Internet resources for Kansas City and the surrounding region.

Competition among city guide providers is stiff, however, including that among the likes of AOL, Yahoo, MSN, CitySearch, and other newspapers.

The Mercury News launched a technology-focused Web site called SiliconValley.com in February after acquiring that domain name.

News of the Mercury News' interest in the domain name comes as editors are meeting in San Francisco this week for the annual American Society of Newspaper Editors conference. Intel chairman Andy Grove yesterday told the group what changes to expect from new technology.

News.com's Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.