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Online photo-sharing firm to snap up framing site

Zing Networks plans to announce tomorrow its acquisition of eFrames.com, adding services in an attempt to survive an anticipated shakeout in the industry.

Online photo-sharing company Zing Networks said it will announce tomorrow its acquisition of framing site eFrames.com, adding services in an attempt to survive an anticipated shakeout in the industry.

With about 50 online photo companies competing for customer attention and funding, Zing Networks is fighting for a foothold in the market. Analysts have said that for an online photo company to stay afloat, it must form affiliations with other photo-sharing or photo-product companies and must provide services that rivals do not offer.

San Francisco-based Zing Networks says it hopes to lead the pack by adding eFrames' services, such as packaged prints, frames and other photo merchandise. Zing Networks currently provides customers with online photo albums, custom greeting cards and a service that lets people create screensavers with personal photos.

"There's this musical chairs going on right now of the camera companies partnering...and Zing is closing in on important partnerships," said Richard Roberts, vice president of consumer marketing at Zing.com, which is owned by Zing Networks. The start-up also acquired Pix.com and FotoNation in January.

Analysts predict that consumers will be able to zoom in on the major online photo players by the end of this year.

"This is a market where it's rapidly growing at a fast pace," said Huyen Pham, an analyst at La Jolla, Calif.-based Associated Research Services. "There are different segments of the market. It's just a matter of how you project yourself."

Zing Networks, however, is not covering new territory. Last month, Ofoto launched an online frame store. In addition, Ofoto, Club Photo and Shutterfly.com, are backtracking to offer more services for traditional film users as they realize that a portion of the photography population has been left in the dark. Zing Networks does not yet provide traditional film processing services.

But Zing Network's purchase "does put them ahead of the game because they are expanding their product line to make themselves more competitive," Pham said. If the company "is only a photo-sharing, photo-finishing site, then to them it is a disadvantage."

Roberts said that Zing Networks also plans to acquire funding. The company said it is preparing to unveil its third round of financing from investors including Sony and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Zing Networks and eFrames did not disclose the cost of the acquisition.