It’s no exaggeration to say that local newspapers in their printed form are facing the most challenging period of their lives, so it’s only sensible to invest in other media – like the one in everyone’s pocket. Gannett-owned Newsquest Media Group today announces the launch of 148 mobile sites with news, sport and travel updates to compliment its local and regional newspaper websites. The sites, such as mobile.theargus.co.uk, went live two weeks ago, but are only being announced due to technical difficulties, now resolved, with an unnamed mobile operator.
Roger Green, MD of Newsquest Digital Media, told me today: “I can’t make claims for anyone else but it’s probably one of the largest mobile networks around, it’s a big step for us. Whenever the year of mobile is, we’ll be ready.” Green says Newsquest had extensively rolled out WAP sites through its previous site management technology, but these had lost their appeal with the advance of smartphones and improvement of general phone browsing. The new mobile sites feature re-purposed content from sites like thetelegraphandargus.co.uk and Lancashiretelegraph.co.uk, but Green says that the functionality of the sites will be “significantly” improved in time.
— New revenue streams: Newsquest’s ad revenue was down 29.3 percent in Q408, so new forms of revenue are much needed. Green says there is scope to make more money from mobile and sees the new sites as part of a mobile strategy that already makes the company money from football text updates, news alerts, a dating service, newspaper-promoted competitions and a car value calculator — the company sent out more than one million texts last year. “If you combine that with the growing capabilities of devices, there are certainly some commercial prospects there,” says Green.
And with London and much of south-east of England shuddering to standstill due to the highest snowfall in 18 years, Newsquest certainly picked the right day to go public with news provision that doesn’t involve walking to the shops.