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Can a mobile app company really save local newspapers?

Most believe that printed newspapers’ days are limited – but a tech company thinks they have the answer. Could HubCiti be the perfect blend of old school and new school?



It’s no secret that newspapers are in trouble

Perhaps the biggest problem facing local newspapers is that outside of local paper publishers and editors, the public is largely apathetic to their future. I mean, let’s face it, it is all too easy for people to get the news, and just about any other information, from a mobile phone that is never more than a foot or two away. And local businesses – the advertisers in this case – have figured that out.

Sure, some companies will always run ads in the local paper, but more and more are moving their precious marketing money to search, social, and services like Groupon. Yes, papers are increasingly taking their content online and offering digital ads, but that doesn’t really solve the general consumer’s “what I want, when I want it” problem. Consumers clearly want convenience. The question is can local papers evolve rapidly enough and use their vestiges of credibility to introduce innovative a viable alternative to their own traditional model before they’re completely forgotten?

HubCiti believes they can

HubCiti CEO Roy Truitt actually believes the solution is collective, rather than independent, innovation. That is to say Roy thinks every local paper in America should tap into one platform (his platform) which downloads an entire city’s worth of information into one, simple-to-use mobile directory. It’s ambitious, sure, but then Roy Truitt is no stranger to big goals. A successful serial entrepreneur who sold household brand On the Border Chips and Salsa to help fund this latest endeavor, he also led the expansion of Sam’s Club in Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall. Roy will tell you without hesitation that the life-changing potential of platform – for small cities across America – is as real and realistic as anything he has ever done.

“We built HubCiti because we believe there’s a very strong business case for reliable, centralized information in small cities across America,” he offered. “Since that is what newspapers have historically been, it only makes sense that we use this platform to serve and to compliment them rather than to compete with them. Local business are looking for reliable ways to get found, and local papers are quite often run by local families who care deeply about the success of those businesses. By empowering local papers to solve that problem in an increasingly information-rich and mobile world, we can make the businesses more profitable and the paper more profitable… and even have enough money left over to create an independent scholarship fund for kids in every city.”

Texas publishers already on board

Truitt, who is a founding member of the smart city initiative Austin CityUP and sits on the Board of Visitors for the McDonald Observatory, believes so much in the power of education and innovation that he has committed to seeding a local scholarship fund with up to $5K ($1 per download) wherever the app is deployed. As the fairly robust platform allows each new city’s mobile app to be deployed rapidly and with minimal upfront cost, it certainly seems like a compelling value proposition. All that really remains to be seen is will local papers evolve to meet the needs of their communities before their communities become completely committed to other solutions?

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With Texas publications like The Tyler Morning Telegraph, Blue Ribbon News, and The Killeen Daily Herald already onboard, and others lining up to give it a try, the team behind HubCiti believes local papers do in fact have a bright (if backlit) future.


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