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Gannett’s “Information Center” project to overhaul its newspapers with user-generated content and data-driven services is making some progress, per this month’s Wired magazine piece by Jeff Howe. Since I first reported on the initiative in November 2006, the company has zeroed in on Mom and College Age/Recent Grad sites – two demo groups that don’t have much use for newspapers, online or off.

Thirty-nine mom sites are now being rolled out across the U.S. One paper, The Indianapolis Star, is producing a monthly print version of its IndyMoms Web site. The original prototype, CincyMOMs, from The Cincinnati Enquirer, brought in $386,000 in its first six months and gets 40,000 page views a day. Half the CincyMOMS advertisers are new to the paper.

Wired also notes that Gannett’s 110 papers are being reorganized by interest group. Instead of being seen as single, top-down metro paper, The Enquirer is now envisioned as 270 niche publications, including its suburban papers, neighborhoods Web sites and regional magazines.

In addition to mom and student Web sites, Gannett is also focusing on launching local “Data Centers” stocked with information from public records and open archives. In December, the Data Center from The Asbury Park Press – DataUniverse – attracted 35 million page views.

Aside from the cost of shifting personnel and adding part-timers – such as a conversation facilitator for CincyMOMS who gets $25 per week – Gannett’s major investment has been for new video cameras, software systems and other tools. The total out-of-pocket cost has been estimated at around $3 million.

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