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Times Media to enter real estate business

The ZetaBid venture is its latest effort to tap additional revenue streams beyond newspaper advertising.

August 23, 2008|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

Searching for new sources of revenue, Los Angeles Times Media Group is getting into the real estate business.

On Monday, Times Media Group and other partners will launch ZetaBid, a business that will auction foreclosed homes and other properties. The company would also run a website where the properties could be viewed.

The other partners are London-based GoIndustry-DoveBid, an auction specialist, and CataList Homes of Hermosa Beach, a real estate brokerage. The partners will share fees paid by the buyer on each home sold.

The venture is the latest effort by the struggling media company to tap additional revenue streams beyond newspaper advertising. The media group also operates revenue-sharing ventures through its Cars.com and Apartments.com classified-advertising enterprises.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, August 28, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Real estate auctioneer: An article in Business on Saturday about the launch of a real estate auction company referred to it as ZetaBid. The trademarked name is Zetabid.

"These businesses are transforming and [ZetaBid is] another way to participate in advertising revenue with a slightly different model," said Bob Bellack, who is president of digital media, classified and development for Times Media Group and will be chairman of the new enterprise.

"The traditional newspaper model doesn't exist anymore," he said. "The next-generation media company is a company that facilitates transactions and helps buyers and sellers come together."

Bellack said ZetaBid's print and online listings would provide more information than other auction companies on properties for sale, including opening bid prices, contact information for listing agents and photos.

The Los Angeles Times is part of Times Media Group but has no connection to the new venture, said Times Editor Russ Stanton.

"We will treat ZetaBid like any other real estate entity from a coverage standpoint," Stanton said.

The Times and other newspapers have been suffering from a downturn in advertising that has been exacerbated by the housing slump.

On Friday, Fitch Ratings cut the credit rating of Times parent Tribune Co. further into "junk" status and said more reductions might come if newspaper advertising revenue continued to decline.

The ZetaBid venture represents one way for Times Media Group to counteract that, industry analysts said.

"Newspapers need to get creative about identifying the commercial opportunities that leverage their ability to create content and publish that content throughout its Web pages, print pages or otherwise," said Alan D. Mutter, an independent media analyst and investor.

Steve Gray of the American Press Institute in Reston, Va., said "the newspaper model has been limited to telling people what is available to buy. But in a digital world there is no reason why newspapers shouldn't be part of what follows."

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annette.haddad@latimes.com

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