Verve Wireless Signs Deal to ‘Deliver’ Local Papers

With print ad revenue drying up, more local newspapers are turning to mobile devices to distribute their content and pick up some extra bucks in the process.

Verve Wireless, a technology provider that builds mobile sites for local newspapers, June 25 will announce partnerships with MediaNews Group, Belo, Hearst and Cox Newspapers to mobilize their newspapers, which include The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Palm Beach Post.

Verve is already working with The Associated Press, McClatchy Co., New York Times Regional Group and Media General. The new clients increase Verve’s local newspaper customers by about one third, to roughly 450.

Its chief competitor, Crisp Wireless, has Gannett and The Washington Post among its clients, according to its Web site.

Along with the new clients, the company also will announce changes to its platform that will expand local newspapers’ and TV stations’ ability to disseminate video on mobile devices.

Local advertising on mobile devices is poised to be the next big ad trend, according to The Kelsey Group. Kelsey, a division of BIA, recently predicted that local mobile ad revenue will top $3.1 billion by 2013, up from $160 million in 2008.

Verve CEO Art Howe, a veteran newspaper reporter and owner, said that the mobile Web is a great way for local businesses to do behavioral targeting. A bar or restaurant could send smartphone owners a weekend alert advertising a happy hour special, for example.

Beyond its ad revenue potential, the mobile Web also offers newspapers an opportunity to extract more money out of consumers, Howe said, noting that The New York Times Co. recently revealed that it’s considering charging readers to read its news on mobile devices.

“This is a very powerful distribution channel for local newspapers that they desperately need,” Howe said. “It allows them to connect with their readers and virtually everybody in their communities and deliver advertising solutions for virtually all businesses. And there’s a larger discussion about using mobile as a way to charge for digital content. The fact you can get customizable news in a timely fashion is an opportunity for newspapers to seriously consider charging.”