New York Times to Buy for $410 Million

By Julie MacIntosh


The New York Times Co. on Thursday said it will buy online information portal for $410 million from publisher Primedia Inc. as it looks for new ways to build advertising revenue over the Internet.

The Times Co., whose newspapers include The New York Times and The Boston Globe, said it will expand's content and visibility and use the site to market its products and those of advertisers.

Primedia bought for $690 million in stock in late 2000, as it worked to meld its traditional publishing business with online media. But the publisher struggled to steer through the Internet downturn and noted on Thursday that the portal is "completely distinct" from its other Web sites. provides consumers who search its database with information from expert "guides" on topics including health, finances, food, and travel.

Some investment banking sources suggested in recent weeks that could sell for considerably less than $410 million. The sources named Time Warner Inc. and Ask Jeeves Inc. as other parties that might have been interested in the company.

But Reed Phillips, a managing partner at media banking firm DeSilva & Phillips, said that while the price was a bit higher than he had expected, "it's not out of the ballpark."

Phillips pointed out that Internet companies have started trading again at significantly higher multiples, and said The Times Co. would be able to use ad revenue from to make up for the flagging classified ad sales that have plagued the industry.

However, one investment banker who follows the industry closely said The Times Co. could find it challenging, as Primedia did, to mine the more niche-oriented consumers who use

"The Times certainly has greater reach, though, and maybe that's the theory behind it," the source said.

Primedia, majority-owned by private investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., has sold several high-profile magazines and its Sprinks online advertising service in recent years in an effort to whittle itself into a special interest and business-to-business publisher.

Primedia revamped last year after appointing a new chief executive, Peter Horan, to the unit in late 2003. The company noted that the sale of would strengthen its balance sheet.

The New York Times Co. said would not start adding to its earnings until 2007. The company said that for tax purposes, it plans to treat the acquisition similar to an asset purchase, leading to tax deductions worth over $80 million.

Online advertising executives said the purchase would open the New York Times and its advertisers to a much broader consumer audience. has more than 22 million visitors each month, nearly double the 13 million visitors to the and related sites combined.

"This is one of the best-kept secrets in our business ... but ( hasn't had the resources to really promote themselves," said Jeff Lanctot, vice president of media at online agency Avenue A/Razorfish.

"It's a good reach and a diversified audience," he said. "We've spent an increasing amount of money with them in the last two years."

Lanctot likened the site to a smaller version of dominant Internet portals like Yahoo or Microsoft's MSN, where Internet users can be directed to specialty interests off a well-trafficked home page.

The site's main page can be used for mass marketing while niche areas can help advertisers target their commercials to the appropriate audiences.

The New York Times has more than 40 web sites, including the

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