Gannett’s Dubow: Doubling Down On Local And Mobile

Gannett (NYSE: GCI) CEO Craig Dubow began the company’s largely positive Q4 earnings results by highlighting the local digital moves on the hyperlocal and marketing fronts and offered a lot of credit to its partners in display for newspapers and TV (Yahoo) and hyperlocal (DataSphere). Although not anywhere near the coverage of AOL’s Patch, which has over 750 sites now, Gannett has 264 hyperlocal sites in 10 markets.

In addition to building up its hyperlocal offerings, mobile is the other big bet Gannett is training its strategy on this year.

In January, Gannett had 7.3 million app downloads. Apple’s iPhone and iPad comprised 70 percent of the Gannett mobile downloads so far, but Google’s Android is catching up, as it accounted for half of the downloads Gannett recorded this past month. Mobile pageviews were up 267 percent. “We’re seeing signs for an emerging ad market for both national and local across mobile devices,” Dubow said.

The company plans to expand its mobile development platform across the rest of its community papers this year — so far, flagship paper USA Today launched its new mobile platform in December. The plan outlined by Dubow calls for new mobile 100 sites for all local U.S. news properties that will support mobile video to be rolled out this year.

During the Q&A, Dubow was asked about the company’s thinking about a subscription offering around its news apps. For example, when Gannett launched the iPad app for USAT last April, the company had eventually planned to move it to a subscription format. But as the ad market came back, especially in digital, the company decided to hold off on charging users for access. In his answer today, nothing much has changed, as Dubow didn’t close the door on eventually charging, he also seemed to say that nothing was in the works in terms of any mobile paywalls.

That said, the company is continuing to experiment in paywalls for its three community papers — online readers are charged $9.95 per month for full access to The Tallahassee Democrat, The Greenville News, and The Spectrum. In addition, subscription-based news curator Ongo had its full launch last week with backing and content from Gannett, the NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) and the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) Co.