updated 2/17/2005 5:17:23 PM ET 2005-02-17T22:17:23

The New York Times Co. is buying About.com, an online consumer information company, for $410 million in cash from special-interest magazine publisher Primedia Inc., the companies announced Thursday. It was the latest acquisition of an online company in recent months by a newspaper publisher.

The deal gives the Times a bigger footprint in the online world, where it has moved aggressively in recent years to expand its offerings and revenues from advertising. About.com has a network of Web sites that are maintained by about 500 experts on various topics including sports, personal finance, food and hobbies.

Other newspaper publishers have also bought online companies recently, including Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, which last fall acquired MarketWatch Inc., an online financial publisher, for about $519 million in cash in a move to broaden its reach online. In December, The Washington Post Co. acquired the popular online magazine Slate from Microsoft Corp.

The online site for the Journal, WSJ.com, is the largest paid subscription site on the Web.

For Primedia, a publisher of industry and special-interest magazines, the sale represents the latest move to sell off assets and pare down debt. Primedia acquired About.com in late 2000 amid the heat of the Internet frenzy in a stock deal valued at about $690 million at the time.

In recent years Primedia has sold a number of its mass-market magazines, including Seventeen, American Baby, Chicago and Modern Bride. It also recently sold American Demographics, a small but well-respected specialty magazine.

The deal was announced after the close of regular stock trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The Times’ shares slipped 7 cents to $38.18 in the extended session, adding to a 46-cent decline during regular trading. Primedia’s shares gained 35 cents, or 8.6 percent, at $4.40 in the late session, after gaining 3 cents in regular trading.

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