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Right on the heels of eBay's costly acquisition of, Cincinnati-based, "diversified media" company E.W. Scripps buys Shopzilla (formerly BizRate). The price was reportedly US$525 million in cash.

Scripps owns newpapers, cable networks and local TV affiliates. Now it's made a high-profile purchase in the competitive shopping search arena.

Shopzilla/BizRate is consistently in the top two or three engines in terms of unique visitors and is certainly a prize. The company is privately held; it will apparently continue operations as an independent unit of Scripps.

Product review engine recently received US$7.2 million in funding. The "shopping vertical" — though shopping isn't really a vertical — is heating up. And there are still a few independent properties out there: PriceGrabber and NexTag among them.

Shopping is in fact one of the most competitive categories on the Internet (and in paid search marketing), with Amazon, eBay and many large retailers battling fiercly with shopping engines. (Women are the movers and shakers behind e-commerce as several articles reminded us this week and as Chuck Davis, CEO of Shopzilla, reminded Neal Polachek and me 15 months ago when we first spoke with the company in its LA offices.)

It will be interesting to see if Scripps seeks to integrate Shopzilla's platform and merchant data (partly behind AOL's Pinpoint Shopping site) into its collection of local TV or newspaper sites (a la Classified Ventures), or whether it does not. It would make sense for Scripps to do so and thus leverage the deal in multiple ways rather than simply regarding Shopzilla as an online revenue stream.

It will also be interesting to see whether local product sellers get access to Shopzilla via Scripps newspaper relationships (a la YP simplified search marketing distribution for local service businesses). But this is probably a phase II or phase III integration, if it's going to happen at all.

With Dow Jones' acquisition of MarketWatch, the NY Times' acquisition of and KRD, Tribune and Gannett adding to their collection of online properties with, it appears newspapers as a category are starting to make much more aggressive moves online.

If they can't build it, they'll buy it. And every one of these deals sets the table for additional consolidation.

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