Why Google is buying Frommer’s

Google says it is acquiring Frommer’s travel-guide business from John Wiley & Sons Inc for $25 million. 

The deal is expected to attract more advertising dollars tied to online-travel bookings and local-business information for Mountain View. 

Indeed, owning Frommer’s travel-guide content and showing it in search results would allow the online giant to sell travel-related ads against the data.

Of course, Frommer’s would also offer yet more tools for users booking travel arrangements. 

As you may recall, a similar deal saw Google snap up Zagat Survey in 2001, which was subsequently incorporated into Google+ local-business listings.

The post-acquisition Frommer’s will be blended with the current Zagat blend, helping Mountain View boost Google+ business listings as well as Google maps.

“With Zagat and Frommer’s, Google is betting it can become a trusted guide for travel and local-business information by using expert ratings and aggregating online comments from thousands of customers, the way Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com do,” explained Amir Efrati and Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal.

B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha expressed similar sentiments, noting that Google is increasingly competing with a range of companies, including Yelp and TripAdvisor.

“It’s been Google’s overarching strategy to dominate the travel vertical,” Sinha told Reuters. 

”They want to dislodge these vertical search engines that may have gained over the last few years. They want to marry content with commerce, and content is an important part of that equation.”

Meanwhile, Lorraine Shanley, president at Market Partners International, said travel book publishing (in its current format) may very well be entering its final stages, given the prevalence of tablets, smartphones and e-books that can be easily updated in real time.

“When Google buys Frommer’s they’re not really buying a book publisher or imprint, they’re buying a database with both content and photography. People still want to take a travel guide with them when they go on a trip, but presumably that will erode over time… [Now] I’m not going to sound the death knell of travel books, but the expense of creating a new edition and then printing it and distributing it is becoming prohibitive.”

Indeed, approximately 57% of travelers kick off their their destination selection process on a search engine. 

“But [then] they turn to services such as TripAdvisor and online travel agencies for travel planning and shopping,” explained Douglas Quinby, senior director of research for PhoCusWright. “Content is critical, and Google needs it.”