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Competitors may team up on Web site

MediaNews executives say they are discussing with Hearst Corp. a joint venture to begin a new Web site involving the online products of the Chronicle, Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and MediaNews publications in the Bay Area. That’s according to a story in this morning’s Contra Costa Times by George Avalos.

“We’ve talked conceptually about a joint venture to start up a new Web site, which would probably use the BayArea.com name,” Joseph Lodovic, MediaNews president, told Avalos. “It’s very preliminary. These are just exploratory discussions of things we could do together.”

“That’s news to us,” said Peter Negulescu, vice president of digital media with SFGate, the Chronicle’s current online operation.

Avalos said Hearst executives at the company’s New York headquarters did not return a telephone call requesting a comment.

MediaNews’s complex $1 billion purchase of four Knight Ridder newspapers includes $263 million in funds from Hearst Corp., which would go toward a stake in MediaNews’s operations outside the Bay Area.

Other points in today’s article:

• The sale of the Merc, CCTimes and other KR papers to MediaNews should be final in four weeks. The closing was originally set for June 27, but it was postponed when the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division said it would need more time to complete its inquiry.

• The DOJ is concerned that MediaNews, which already owns the Tri-Valley Herald, will acquire the Valley Times. Both serve the Pleasanton-Livermore-Dublin-San Ramon area. DOJ guidelines prohibit one newspaper company from owning two dailies serving the same area in most cases. MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton suggested in today’s article that the Herald could focus primarily on readers in the San Joaquin Valley, while the Times could concentrate on readers in Alameda County, San Ramon, Danville and Blackhawk.

• Singleton said “he will give his Bay Area publishers much more leeway in making entrepreneurial decisions than might have been the case in the more bureaucratic Knight Ridder structure.”

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