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Mobile Set To Revitalize Local Newspaper Business?

It's no secret the local newspaper industry is failing, with readers dropping print versions for a more digital means of staying up to date with local news. Among efforts to revive the dying industry is an initiative on behalf of Verve Wireless to pump local news through mobile devices to provide a new medium for local outlets to boost their readership and subsequent ad revenue.
It's no secret the local newspaper industry is failing, with readers dropping print versions for a more digital means of staying up to date with local news. Among efforts to revive the dying industry is an initiative on behalf of Verve Wireless to pump local news through mobile devices to provide a new medium for local outlets to boost their readership and subsequent ad revenue.Verve Wireless' goal is to provide everything necessary to take local newspapers mobile and to allow the newspapers and Verve themselves the opportunity to monetize via specialized, targeted mobile advertising. So far, the company powers more than 4,000 versions of local newspapers from some 140 publishers across the country, including such local media royalty as The Associated Press, McClatchy, and the New York Times Regional Media Group.

Of the 95 million mobile Internet subscribers, an estimated 40 million actively use their phones to go online, double the number two years ago, according to Nielson Mobile. Thirteen million use their phones to read the news, and a cell phone version of a Web site extends a site's reach by 13%. Local outlets are starting to take notice of the growing statistics and are beginning to take advantage of mobile.

The Associated Press started using Verve Wireless' platform for its distribution and liked it so much it invested in the company to add to its $3 million in funding. Since then, 728 AP member newspapers have joined the network, and the number is growing every day. Oddly enough, its investment in Verve Wireless comes on the heels of its iPhone application launch, which delivers daily headlines and photos and lets users watch slideshows or videos and text or e-mail stories to friends. The effort actually took the runner-up spot in the Apple Design Award competition for its excellent design and usability. The investment in Verve is very rare for the news organization. Looks to me like AP understands that mobile is its savior and is getting in on every level while it still can.

"Local plus mobile is a winning formula for advertisers too," Verve president Tom Kenney says. "There is still no better way for the local florist or bakery to reach potential customers than the daily newspaper," he argues, "and mobile makes that even easier. A Mexican restaurant can send a reader a coupon for a free margarita when they are walking nearby during happy hour, for example, or a car dealer could deliver an ad with a map and walking directions when a user types in an auto-related search." The targeting capabilities when using mobile are much more beneficial and profitable than traditional newspapers.

Whether mobile is the saving grace for local newsprint or not, it's definitely the plausible route to try first. I guess we'll see if their careful planning pays off.

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