News of the Day: Google Print Ads in Newspapers

og010906m.gifAlong with the start of a very crowded ad:tech NYC today, the online marketing world is buzzing with news of Google’s print ads program. According to BusinessWeek, the most notable part of Google’s print program is its size and scope at launch…

Google Print Ads is notable for both the number of newspapers that have signed on, as well as the participants it’s attracting. Among the participating papers are some of the nation’s largest and most renowned: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Denver Post. More than 100 advertisers will take part as well. (The test hasn’t yet started, and Google declined to release the names of virtually all advertisers.) Tom Phillips, director of Google Print Ads, says he expects the program to be expanded to include weekly newspapers “sooner rather than later.” He says weekly magazines eventually will be involved as well.

Print publications have long been wondering about their future with the competition of online advertising showing increasingly higher returns and shares of advertising budgets. By bridging this gap, Google is issuing forth a strange extension of life for offline content publications. In one respect, the new influx of ads and interest (and relevancy) which Google brings to newspapers and eventually magazines is a blessing. At the same time, there is a fang’s edge to the print content industry in that Google is positioning itself as a metric setter, as it has done with search.

Google Print Ads differs from Google’s AdWords search-term auctions, in which advertisers bid for space adjacent to search results for selected keywords. The new program allows newspapers to set minimum prices. Another difference: In at least one early move into this arena, Google simply bought ad space from publishers and auctioned off pieces to advertisers. But with Print Ads, “rather than create some artificial scarcity by buying [ad] inventory and then auctioning it off,” says Google’s Phillips, advertisers will “bid on inventory and then allow [newspapers] to decide on whatever makes sense.”

So, there’s the crux of this whole development (which has been in small testing since late last year and was seen as inevitability). The question was not if Google was going to go print, but how, and would their move into the space create disproportionate and falsely increased ad rates as the print publishers and advertisers sought to find the market equilibrium. It seems as if Google is inverting what it does with AdWords and bidding on the space already in existence.

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