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Trinity Mirror Hopes LocalMole.co.uk Will Dig For Small Biz Advertisers

imageTrinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) clearly doesn’t think local is dead and buried just yet. This week, it’s quietly unveiling a new local business directory search site, LocalMole.co.uk, going head-to-head with Yell.com, Thomson and Touch Local to try to regain local classifieds advertising during the downturn.

The site already includes listings for 1.8 million UK businesses, bought in from Central Index. It lets users rate and review listed companies for fellow readers and will be cross-promoted across the range of Trinity titles, though first to make a public splash is the WalesOnline portal.

Businesses can pay to “upgrade” their preloaded, free listings£149 for search priority, a fuller company profile with weblinks and visibility within a 15-mile radius of the search user. A £199 package affords an extended profile or businesses can sponsor business category pages with display ads from £50 a month. Users can register with the site to save favourite listings.

While Trinity Mirror already operates Fish4 – the cars, homes and jobs classifieds site – together with Newsquest, the idea with LocalMole.co.uk is to be “broader in scope”. The publisher now has two separate classifieds networks: one for business listings, the other for small ads.

Trinity’s regionals lost 13.6 percent of their advertising income in 2008 – online ads up 16.9 percent but print down 16.9 percent. Regionals’ websites made 25 percent more at £38 million. In an age when more and more people skip formal business directories altogether and just Google (NSDQ: GOOG), LocalMole.co.uk is a push to hold on to the small businesses that have always been local newspapers’ core advertising base.