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Local papers group launches UK Net auction service

Meanwhile, movie stars donate their smalls for charity bid-a-thon...

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One of the UK's largest regional newspaper groups is to launch a nationwide online auction service in January allowing ordinary people to buy and sell small items over the Web. Newsquest Media Group, which publishes 173 local paid-for and free newspapers and boasts a weekly readership of almost ten million, maintains that this is not the beginning of the demise of traditional newspapers. Instead, the company's new-media director, Simon Gray, believes it is a huge opportunity and one which could generate a "huge revenue stream" for the company. However, in an interview in the Financial Times the company's executive chairman, Jim Brown, did admit that Newsquest's initial venture onto the Net was done originally to protect its business. "What we've found is another business," he said. Newsquest, which already has 18 regional news Web sites, is piloting the system in the northeast of England before rolling it out for the rest of the UK in January. The online auction will initially concentrate on small, collectible items that appeal to the demographics most associated with Net users. People will be able to buy and sell goods and as the auction service grows, more and more categories will be added to the list. In time, Gray hopes that other newspaper and magazine publishers will sign up to the service and he confirmed that he was also in discussion with companies wishing to use the auction to sell surplus stock. Using the same system as Auction Universe from the US, Newsquest is hoping that the recently reported success of online auctions in the US will be translated in the UK. The big question is whether the UK is ready for such a service. A pair of celebrity pants, yesterdayElsewhere, film stars Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Walter Matthau have all agreed to take part in an event billed as the "world's funniest Internet auction". They've all agreed to donate their underpants for the online auction. While there may not be much of a rush to bid for Whoopi Goldberg's shreddies, there should be more than a little interest in Brooke Shield's briefs. Organisers have yet to confirm whether the celebrity knickers will be washed before they're dispatched to the winning bidders. ®

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