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 Frommers.com." 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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