Text search at USA Today

USA TODAY launched a mobile search platform that combines print news with text messaging and interactive online ads.

Ads in certain sections of the daily paper’s print edition will feature a number that readers can text message with requests for up-to-date information. Replies to these text messages feature a sponsored interactive ad.

“It’s basically a mobile search platform and what it allows us to do is take a non-interactive platform, a newspaper, and make the print product interactive through the use of text messaging and short codes,” said Matt Jones, director of mobile strategy and operations at Gannett Digital, a unit of USA Today parent Gannett Co.

The service allows access to real-time news at low or no cost to the reader. The company already has advertisers sponsoring content.

“I think that a lot of marketers are thinking of how they can best leverage the 230 million mobile phones used in this country,” he said.

The text-messaging option offered by USA Today is part of standard-rate messaging, so it will cost no more than sending and receiving text messages from any other source. The platform works on most cell phones and carriers in the United States.

Users of the message will have access to updated sports scores and player information, weather forecasts, current stock quotes, movie times and celebrity news. Palo Alto, CA-based 4INFO helped USA Today build its texting platform.

For the six months ending March, USA Today showed an average daily paid Monday-to-Friday circulation of 2,278,022.

Gannett aims to expand its text messaging and mobile content with an initiative called “information centers.” The strategy is to enhance current media content with more local content.

“Mobile is basically a downstream distribution point for all of the national and local content we produce,” Mr. Jones said. “We want to make our news and information available to consumers in the format that they choose.”

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