With Frommer's buy, Google eyes new strategy

Google tests the waters of content creation by prepping to add Frommer's travel guides to search, Maps

Google is hoping that when you go on your next vacation, you'll be relying not only on Google search and Maps but on Google's own content to go with you.

Less than a year after Google bought the restaurant review guide publisher Zagat, the company announced on Monday that it is buying well-known travel guide publisher Frommer's.

The Frommer's content will be used to boost the reviews component of Google's local business listings.

"This is going to dovetail well with their other acquisitions and their other services," said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "Merging it with their earlier Zagat purchase is a no-brainer."

Google is expected to put its Frommer's purchase to work much as it has with Zagat.

Just this past May, the company took the wraps off a tool that promises to make it easier for people on the run to find the perfect restaurant. Called Google+ Local, the service provides users with Zagat restaurant reviews and Google+ friend recommendations.

And Google was quick to weave the new tool into more than one of its services. Google+ Local is available as a tab in Google+ and can be integrated into Google search, and the Google Maps mobile app.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he expects Frommer's travel information to be integrated not just into Google search, but into Google+ and Google Maps, as well.

"Maps and search, pretty soon. I'm not sure how or when it will become part of Google+ but that should be coming," he added. "I don't know about you, but when I travel, I rely heavily on Google Maps for locating and vetting things like local restaurants."

And Olds said he can envision Google adding a 'trip planning" feature to Maps, for example.

"Imagine someone either planning a trip or already on one," he explained. "They do a Google search for interesting places near a location. That search pulls up some sights courtesy of Frommer's, but also points out that there is a great Italian restaurant nearby. Now there's a link to a Zagat review, of course."

Olds noted also that as the user investigates their trip ever further, they gets increasingly specific travel-related ads popping up.

"Before, Google would just be able to sell the ads on the search site," he said. "But now, when someone investigates info from Frommer's, that's Google ad space, too...as well as the Zagat review."

However, both Olds and Gottheil said this move is about more than just beefing up Google search and Maps. It's also about Google, which has long been about pointing users to others' content, creating its own content.

"You could say that with Maps, Google has been into content creation for a long time," said Gottheil. "But Frommer's gives them authors and editors to help continue to generate content... It's a continuation of a strategy of adding geographically valuable content. It's new, though, in that it's a first step into professionally authored content."

Olds said he expects to see Google move more steadily in this direction.

"I see Google moving more towards creating and owning their own content, rather than just pointing to content from others," he said. "This gives them the ability to offer advertisers more bites at the apple and a chance to influence consumers at more steps in the process."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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