Google buys Frommer’s: So what??

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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. It will be fine; I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
    Google is just buying its way into travel as opposed to starting from scratch.

  2. Frommers was a great company that I loved to support. I dont have the same confidence in Google that they will provide the travel info I have come to rely on.

  3. I think they are basically buying content, right? They’ve got their flight search thing that they are trying to push. This gives them guide info to go along with it. And something to sell to all the tablet users. I just got a Nexus 7 tablet for example. Seems like a perfect platform for travel guides.

  4. I hope they do not bumble around like the BBC has done with Lonely Planet. Frommer’s guides are not my first choice but are ok for US states where few other guides provide detailed coverage.

  5. In my view Frommers – and Fodors for the same reason – are hopelessly out of date. They mix extensive hotel data with limited destination data, of a very generic type.

    Nowadays, people generally reserve their accommodation before they travel and therefore don’t need to lug a book full of hotel recommendations around with them while they are at the destination. But there is still good scope for excellent destination guides, where the book format works well and data roaming is a big issue. But Frommers is not that sort of book.

  6. The Yahoo!’ifying of Google continues…

    Digital convergence never works. In the case of Google, search will become more and more defined by the needs of its other properties, not on the best results for the end user.

  7. On longer trips we still like having a guidebook to mark up and go through. I’ve downloaded free city guides from various travel book companies and I don’t find them easy to use.

    On that note I still find Lonely Planet to be the best of what’s out there.

  8. I used to work for John Wiley & Sons (former owner of Frommer’s) and they really have let that brand languish …they weren’t updating important guides on a timely basis anymore.

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