Brand v. Content: where is the value??

The past year or so for the Frommer’s brand has been a particularly interesting one. Last August Google bought the Frommer’s series from its publisher and did so with no clear indications of what they planned to do with it. Earlier this year they quietly pulled the plug on the printed versions of the guides. And, to top it all off, this week it seems that the brand name has been reacquired by Arthur & Pauline Frommer. Well, now we know that Google just wanted the content, right?

The reported $25mm price Google originally paid isn’t all that much money and, quite frankly, might have actually been a reasonable price just to get the raw data content about all the destinations which came with the brand. But is that enough for Google to build their credibility in the travel space? Obviously the content is only as good as its most recent refresh and it can become stale incredibly quickly. Plus, Google has long been a champion of user-generated content rather than editorial content. So how does buying a bunch of content actually help them?

Similarly, does just owning the brand name mean that Arthur & Pauline can bring the guidebook business back and, once again, make money publishing them? Mr. Frommer was quoted by the AP as saying, "We will be publishing the Frommer travel guides in ebook and print formats and will also be operating the travel site" There’s going to be something coming, but it is hard to tell just how much content they have to work with as they restart their empire.

Best as I can figure, Google realized that an empty framework wasn’t attracting the updates from users it needed to take off as a platform. They paid a chunk of cash to seed their sites and they’re hoping that the users will take over from there to keep the information current and help it grow.

And The Frommer family hopes the name recognition is enough for one more try at building a brand again. But I don’t believe at all that print is going to be the cornerstone of the new incarnation of that company.

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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. Even though the content is more important and is ultimately what Google was (and continues to be) after, I think the brand does add some value. I have always been a little skeptical of Google’s rankings for business and such because who knows where it gets this data. I know what to expect from Yelp and TripAdvisor and how much salt I need to take when I read those reviews. I don’t know with Google. When Google bought restaurant info from Zagat, that made me more willing to trust them in that particular niche. Similarly, a name like Fodor’s would make me more willing to trust their travel content, even if it could become outdated.

    1. Most of what I write about isn’t important, RJ.

      I do think much of it is interesting and relevant to the travel world, but rarely important.

  2. I’m old fashioned enough to enjoy reading up on a place I’m going a few weeks in advance, whether in the bathtub, in bed before going to sleep or in my easy chair. To me it’s just much more convenient and satisfying to turn the pages of a book. I also think there can be value in reading the opinions of a seasoned travel writer who has personally made comparisons among hotels, restaurants and attractions. Sites like TripAdvisor have useful opinions, but usually they are from people who have visited one hotel in a given locale and have little way to compare the other options out there. I’ll tear out the pages I think I’ll want to refer to on the trip and leave the rest behind, maybe for a future trip. Free or cheap Internet and data access (or anything at all) isn’t available everywhere I go, but those pages are.

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