One of the more publicized stories in the travel news world today was that Frommer’s has been bought by Google. The travel guide company has been on the market for about six months so it isn’t a huge surprise that they were sold, though the buyer has raised some eyebrows. After all, Google isn’t into many offline businesses and Frommer’s still very much exists in a paper world. At least for now.
The company isn’t saying whether they’re going to keep producing the paper books or not. At least not yet. As much as everything is moving to digital these days there is definitely still a market for the paper versions, whether for people who want to avoid data roaming charges, people who don’t have smart phones (yes, there are a few out there still) or just people who still like having books for travel guides. As much as I’ve gone digital in just about everything I do I still take paper books with me on longer trips. There is data in them that is harder to synthesize from online or other digital resources when on the go.
As for what Google gets from the deal, it doesn’t seem that the paper guides are the focus of the purchase, at least not based on a quote from Bernardo Hernandez, a director of product management in the group which now will run Frommer’s and Zagat’s:
Consumers need fresh accurate information. When you add information you can trust to phone numbers and addresses as part of the Google search experience, it enables users to convert their intentions into actions.
Converting intentions to actions means generating sales transactions in this context. Google is looking to generate revenue from driving bookings now rather than just selling ad placements. For other companies which depend on sales transactions to drive their business seeing the company responsible for generating most of their traffic suddenly getting in to the same market has to be more than a little bit unsettling. With the travel ad market worth about $2-3 billion annually and consumers spending more than $100 billion on bookings in the same time frame, it is easy to see why getting in on the sales side of the game is desirable.
Some are claiming that this move will discredit Frommer’s as a reliable resource. My bigger concern is that it discredits Google. When you cannot be sure of the motivations of the resource referring you to a site it is much harder to trust them or the search results they return.
Does this move skew your view of Frommer’s? Or Google? And do you still buy paper books for your travel guides? Plenty of interesting bits to consider as the market moves forward here.
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