Mobile Offers 'Second Bite at the Apple' for Newspapers

No pun there.

It's safe to say that, despite some impressive growth figures over the past year, most newspapers are still struggling to be competitive online. This is due partly to waiting so long to really take the Internet seriously and not devoting sufficient resources or creative thinking to the challenges it presented early enough. That's not true in every single case but it's largely true of the industry as a whole.

Mobile now offers an opportunity for newspapers to get out in front of the market and establish the kinds of relationships with mobile consumers they probably wish they had done more proactively online.

These thoughts were prompted by a briefing earlier today with Verve Wireless, which is working with and helping to "mobilize" newspapers. The company also works with local TV affiliates and radio. Verve is basically a hosted solution and mobile platform, which also offers ad serving and a national sales channel. The model is a rev share and the company brings national advertisers and sponsors to these pages, while the newspapers also can bring their advertisers as well. In addition to its technology and platform Verve is building a mobile network across these sites that offers content and location targeting for advertisers.

Here's an example link to the WAP site for the Miami Herald, which is hosted by Verve. I was told by Verve that despite the fact that the mobile property has not been promoted by the Miami Herald, traffic was growing organically and fairly quickly. This has been true across McClatchy mobile sites, all hosted by Verve Wireless.

While the site isn't revolutionary in terms of user experience, it presents the trusted newspaper brands and content in a form tailored for mobile distribution. We also talked during the briefing about the potential goldmine of "database driven" content, reviews, events, listings that newspapers have that would be valuable to end-users in mobile.

The analogy between the state of mobile and "the early days of the Internet" is a strong one, although there are some key differences. But getting out in front of mobile now gives newspapers a chance to rectify mistakes of the past.