Google Buys Frommer's to Expand Local Search Content

Google continues to go where the money is as it buys up travel content publisher, Frommer's. Now the search giant can push more ads in the lucrative local service marketplace.

Frommer's, a name well-known and beloved by consumers for its travel guides to destinations around the world, is being acquired by Google as the search giant continues to seek richer troves of content that can help it increase online local search ad revenue.

The deal means that Google will get the Frommer's name and all of its travel assets from publisher John Wiley & Sons as the publisher continues to shed some of its consumer print and digital products, according to an Aug. 13 announcement from Wiley.

The move will add another big name to Google's brand stable. Last September, Google purchased Zagat, another well-known company that aggregates reviews on restaurants, nightspots, hotels and other attractions from more than 350,000 surveyors around the world.

"The Frommer's team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team," a Google spokesperson said in a prepared statement. "We can't wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world."

A price tag and terms of the deal are not being released, according to both companies.

The move is a sensible one for Google, especially after the Zagat purchase, according to Karsten Weide, a new media analyst with IDC.

"It underscores their commitment to build out both travel and local service, which is really what these two acquisitions are about," said Weide. "Our IDC estimates show that about half of all online advertising spending is in local markets. There's a lot of money to be made."

That's why Google is attacking the market with more content firepower from respected sources, such as Frommer's and Zagat, he said. "Right now, the money is being made primarily by the Yellow Pages and other local advertising plays. If you want to make more money in the local search segment, you need more local content. It attracts local users, and local users attract local advertising."

The Frommer's purchase could help do just that as lucrative ads can be placed where pages call up local searches for travel and dining destinations, said Weide.

With the purchase of Frommer's, Google will keep it under its own brand name for now, but will eventually move to bring that powerful name together with Zagat in a coordinated effort to bolster online search revenue.

The September 2011 acquisition of Zagat was a success story for Google after several other well-publicized purchases failed big time. Google unsuccessfully sought to buy local review powerhouse Yelp in 2009 and group coupon provider Groupon in 2010. After those deals died, Google went on to relaunch its local search product as Google Places, significantly improving the service with its own recommendation engine and reviews.

Those efforts, though, had nowhere near the local review database of Zagat, which offers its famous 30-point scale for restaurants and other establishments in more than 100 cities. Consumers critique everything, from the lighting, ambience and service to, naturally, the food presentation and taste.

The acquisitions continue a strong trend at Google, which made several other commerce-related purchases in 2011, including local deals provider Dealmap, loyalty card provider PunchD and digital coupon provider Zave Networks.

Google wants to carve a big piece of, if not own, the local search and commerce markets, where Groupon and Yelp lurk.