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Gannett Launches 100 Local Mobile Sites

More moves from traditional media into mobile: Gannett (NYSE: GCI) is launching over 100 mobile Internet sites to beef up its presence in the growing local information market. The sites — covering 84 daily newspapers, 19 local broadcast Web sites and USA Today — will feature news, sports, weather and other local information, and will be free to access (provided users have unlimited mobile Internet surfing plans in their contracts). The content will be produced by Gannet’s Information Centers, hubs that generate content used across different Gannet media outlets (from print and television to Internet and mobile).

The company release does not mention 4Info, but Matt Jones, Gannett’s director of mobile strategy and operations, tells us that it will be used in the new local site services. Gannett has had a growing relationship with the SMS-based mobile search company — in June announcing a $10 million investment and an intention to use 4Info’s mobile search and interactive advertising services for its national flagship title USA Today.

Jones tells us the local mobile initiative will not be crossing over with the online advertising venture Gannett has been working on with Tribune, which has its own local mobile sites. He says Third Screen Media will be one of the companies serving ads onto the local sites, but he did not confirm whether Google will be involved. Gannett was an early partner of the search giant’s business selling print newspaper inventory to Google advertisers; Google of course has high hopes of taking its advertising services mobile (not to mention getting deeper into local services to help further its advertising reach).

The mobile announcement comes at time of declining revenues in Gannett’s core newspaper print business and broadcasting business. In July, the publisher reported Q2 revenue fell to $1.93 billion from $2 billion last year, although profits rose to $365.7 million, or $1.56 a share, from $310.5 million, or $1.31 a share, an 18 percent increase from the same period a year ago. Amid falling ad revenues, the Gannett Digital division reported that its U.S. Web sites had 21.8 million unique visitors reaching approximately 13.6 percent of the internet audience in June (no word on online ad revenues, though).

Note to media watchers in the U.K.: Gannett has not yet said whether it intends to launch a similar mobile service with its Newsquest titles, the second-largest regional newspaper group in the country.