Google Acquires Frommer`s Travel Guides

Last week, Google announced that it agreed to acquire the Frommer’s brand, publications, and content from publishing house John Wiley & Sons. The travel guide content should go nicely with the search giant’s purchase of Zagat restaurant guide company last year.

Terms for the deal were not disclosed, though the Wall Street Journal claimed that Google paid around $25 million for the travel guide firm, citing “a person briefed on the deal” as its source. The WSJ also reported that Google wanted the business to help it “attract more advertising dollars tied to online-travel bookings and local-business information.”

How would this work? Google could show Frommer’s travel guide content in its search results – it owns the content now, after all – and sell travel-related ads against the content. Google could also use the content to create tools to help users in booking travel arrangements. It’s also likely that Google will add Frommer’s information to its Google+ local business listings, as it did with Zagat’s information after acquiring that company. Indeed, the search company specifically said that it will blend the Frommer’s brand with the Zagat brand. Frommer’s information might also find its way into Google Maps.

This move puts Google even more directly into competition with websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. The big difference, of course, is that the latter sites use crowdsourced information, while Zagat and Frommer’s content comes from experts. On the other hand, Google’s travel and local business information includes comments and reviews from customers as well, though probably not nearly as many as one can find on Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The WSJ believes the purchase of Frommer’s is part of Google’s growing love affair with professional content, and points to a $350 million investment by the company in professional-grade videos for YouTube as evidence. It did acknowledge that one of the company’s other efforts to collect content from experts – Google Knol – got eliminated by CEO Larry Page, for being an underperforming service.

Greg Stirling over at Search Engine Land observed that, however you slice it, Google just acquired a whole lot of content – a treasure trove that is, in fact, “both larger and more diverse than its previous major content acquisition in publisher Zagat.” One has to wonder what Google will do with it, and whether it will start privileging its own content over other websites’ content in the search results, as some have already accused them of doing.

So what exactly did Google get in the deal? It’s true that the brand is the thing – Frommer’s got its start in 1957 when founder Arthur Frommer published “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” – but Google is getting much more than a well-known name. Sterling noted that “In addition to its website, paper travel guides and other assets Frommer’s has a number of mobile travel apps.” No doubt the search giant will find a way to use those apps as is, or adapt them to generate more revenue.

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