Updated 3:46 p.m. ET, Monday, August 13
Aside from a great global brand name and some 300 travel guide titles to cities and places around the globe, the deal gives Google more ammunition in its quest to turn its now year-old social network, Google Plus, into the premiere resource for users to find all types of local businesses, landmarks and deals.
Google, after all,purchased the famed restaurant and business rating company Zagat in September 2011 for the sum of $151 million, then launched a new section of Google Plus, “Local,” in May 2012 using Zagat’s rating 30-point rating system.
On Monday, Google said it would be combining the newly acquired Frommer’s brand with Zagat, and presumably, Google Plus as well. The information came on the heels of an article in The Wall Street Journal which first reported on the deal.
As a Google spokesperson told TPM:
“The Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team. We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.”
Another good fit for Frommer’s guide book information would be to augment Google’s “Knowledge Graph” — a massive online database of subjects from sources like Wikipedia that now appear in Google search results, giving users immediate, brief summaries of text and photos relating to their search queries.
As for Frommer’s previous parent company, New Jersey-based Wiley, a spokesperson defended the decision to sell off the brand in a phone conversation with TPM.
“Finding a good home for this valuable asset [Frommer’s] was important to us,” Wiley spokesperson Susan Spilka told TPM. “We think Google is a company that can provide the focus needed to achieve [Frommer’s] full strategic potential.”
Asked whether Wiley considered holding onto the Frommer’s brand or selling it to another company instead of Google, Spilka told TPM: “This was the best fit.” Frommer’s, according to Spilka, was “no longer in alignment” with Wiley’s “long-term strategy of research learning and professional practice knowledge resources.”
Some of Frommer’s employees — Spilka declined to provide a total count — will go with the brand to Google, while others will be offered alternate jobs at Wiley, Spilka said. Spilka declined to state whether or not, or how many, employees could lose their jobs as a result of the deal.
The terms of the Frommer’s acquisition — how much Google paid — weren’t immediately disclosed by either company, but Wiley in March announced it would be selling Frommer’s and several of its other flagship publishing brands, among them Cliffs Notes and the Webster’s New World Dictionary, which would generate an estimated $85 million in revenue, as The New York Times noted.
Frommer’s began humbly, with the 1957 publication of the book Europe on $5 a Day by Arthur Frommer, who at 83 years old, still blogs regularly on the Frommer’s website. The brand was later folded into a larger publishing company called “Hungry Minds,” which was acquired by publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc. in 2001.
Hours after Google’s acquisition of Frommer’s was confirmed, the heat already seemed to be turning up on competitors including Yelp and TripAdvisor, both of which suffered drops in their stock prices.
Late update: Separately from the Frommer’s deal, Google has begun rolling out custom URLs (web addresses) for businesses and celebrities that have Google Plus pages and profiles. As Google product manager Saurabh Sharma wrote in a statement on his Google Plus page:
Custom URLs will also be available to people and pages worldwide, so brands like Globo can point readers to google.com/+epoca, or any of their other Brazilian publications.
At first, we’re introducing custom URLs to a limited number of verified profiles and pages. But over time we plan to offer custom URLs to many more brands and individuals, so please stay tuned!
While the move may have been distinct from the Frommer’s purchase, it’s clear that this will only help Google provide a more comprehensive, easily-accessible database of local businesses and organizations.