With The San Diego Union-Tribune up for sale and Lee Enterprises, the Iowa-based company that owns the North County Times, posting an 87 percent drop in the third-quarter, it’s not surprising that some publishers are hoping technology can save the local paper.

Declines in advertising dollars and readership have spurred papers nationwide to find ways of reinventing themselves. Verve Wireless, an Encinitas company headed by Art Howe, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986, provides publishers with the technology to create mobile websites so readers can read the paper on their cell phones and on-the-go.

Last week, the company announced it raised $3 million from the Associated Press and other investors. Verve already powers mobile versions of 4,000 newspapers from 140 publishers, including the AP and the New York Times Regional Media Group.

Verve builds mobile sites for local papers for free — something most papers don’t have the resources or expertise to do — in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue.

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Kevin Carroll, head of the America electronics Association San Diego Council, a tech industry organization, and he told me that wireless is definitely a consumer trend on the rise, particularly here in San Diego. One small local company, for example, is working to transfer Facebook to portable devices, he said.

Nationwide, people are increasingly using their phones to access the web. Of the 95 million mobile internet subscribers, 40 million actively use their phones to go online, twice the number of two years ago, according to Nielsen Mobile, a mobile media research group. Thirteen million use their phones to read the news.

Verve, a mobile ad network, was founded in 2005 with $2.5 million in seed funding, according to the company’s website. They spent two years building the software platform which lets publishers customize their mobile sites and add features, such as text messages with breaking news alerts.


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