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Papers expand Net classifieds

Newspapers owned by Knight-Ridder add car buying and home buying sites to their Net classified offerings, in an effort to stave off competition.

Silicon Valley's main daily newspaper, online pioneer the San Jose Mercury News, along with Bay Area newspaper chain the Contra Costa Newspapers, today launched sites for home and car buyers, trying to leverage their hold on the classified advertising market.

With other localized content See related story: Papers partner for Net classifieds Web sites nipping at the heels of newspapers, trying to grab their lucrative classified ad dollars, the move by the Knight-Ridder-owned newspapers comes none too soon.

The sites, HomeHunter and CarHunter, join the company's existing JobHunter site.

Efforts such as Microsoft's Sidewalk, America Online's Digital City and CitySearch are aiming to grab a piece of the lucrative classified market that newspapers traditionally have enjoyed. Other sites such as Realtor.com are trying to garner eyeballs and revenue from within the home sales vertical market.

But many analysts have long said that newspapers can have the classified market on the Net--if they act by building sites or creating partnerships--because they have brand loyalty and long-standing reputations in the communities they cover.

Other newspapers have created sites similar to those of Knight-Ridder. But most have formed partnerships with local content sites; newspapers supply the content and the services post it online.

"It absolutely makes sense for us to be protecting what has already been a core part of our franchise, which is classified ads, and delivering to our users a service that they told us they want," said Doug Edwards, brand group manager for the Mercury News.

Edwards said the Mercury News is well aware of the competition and as one of the first newspapers online, has been looking for ways to cut into the competition where it already has sprouted.

Edwards said the Mercury News and Knight-Ridder are constantly looking for ways to expand online. For instance, the Mercury News owns the domain name "SiliconValley.com," which currently links to the Mercury News site.

"We're always looking at opportunities to find new ways to present information to people who want it," Edwards said. He added that the Mercury News not only serves local people, but also an international audience that is "looking for information about Silicon Valley."

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