I couldn't help laughing in bemused surprise when I saw the news that New York Times (NYSE:NYT) plans a new twice-yearly supplemental magazine called KEY, which will key into residential real estate topics. I mean, The New York Times reports the news, so you'd think it would have noticed that the once-bubbly real estate market seems to be losing a lot of its fizz. So why on Earth is it launching a magazine like this now?

KEY is due to launch in 2007, and will appear twice yearly with the Sunday edition of the Times. It will be flashy, of course. It will be printed on glossy paper and, according to the press release, will "appeal to marketers seeking an engaging environment of readers with discerning tastes for luxurious and unique properties across the nation and around the world." The press release also said that the number of advertisers lining up to be included are "exceeding our expectations." (We'll see how that pans out in a few months.)

Some of us have thought that real estate has been in bubble mode for quite some time. With rising interest rates and residential real estate sitting on the market for longer periods of time, nobody's really arguing that, at the very least, we're in the midst of a slowdown. (For many of us, "slowdown" is the equivalent of a return to sanity.)

Speaking of slowdowns, it's also not Page 1 material that newspapers have their work cut out for them. Circulation continues to drop -- simultaneously with, and quite probably because of, increases in online consumption of news. And so it's no surprise that companies like New York Times and its nationally read rivals, including Dow Jones' (NYSE:DJ) Wall Street Journal and Gannett's (NYSE:GCI) USA Today, are trying new ways to boost dwindling readership.

That said, investors who own shares of such companies can only hope that they choose wise initiatives to keep their readers engaged. In this case, New York Times' move is too little, too late, and in my opinion, it's anything but wise. Real estate has been all the rage for many years running, so given the change in climate, this move is sort of like arriving at the wild soiree with an extra case of beer after the party's already been busted -- complete with a fair share of partygoers who suffer from an ample dose of regret.

True, people will always buy and sell homes, and granted, New York has historically been a pretty hot (or whatever you want to call "wow, that's expensive!") market for real estate. However, given the current national climate, and the fact that many people are getting burned by some of the bubbly excesses of recent years -- which included a taste for the aforementioned "luxurious and unique properties," or, in many cases, luxuriously expensive and hardly unique properties -- it seems to me that New York Times' timing for KEY magazine just couldn't have been worse.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.