According to Saul Hansell in the November 6, 2006 nytimes.com article Newspapers to Test Plan to Sell Ads on Google, Google is initiating a test program with the participation of major U.S. newspapers to sell print advertising in the newspapers via Google's online ad sales network.
It may seem odd for Google to be selling print ads, but this program makes a lot of sense for both sides:
- Newspapers are steadily losing print advertising revenue as other media heat up and Google has mastered the art of online sales. Google in theory could provide an additional source of advertisers to newspapers who might not otherwise have advertised in the targeted newspapers.
- Google wins as it enters into a new market that may not be competing with its current markets and moves itself along towards a (hypothetical) goal of becoming master of all advertising in all media. (I know that's farfetched but let's assume that's the case.)
Of course, the devil is in the details:
- Initially Google won't be charging for this service. When it does start charging we don't know what the newspapers' reaction will be. (My guess is that newspapers will swallow the charges since they are desperate for print advertising.)
- There is a lot of hand holding in newspaper advertising sales, especially local advertising. It is often necessary for newspaper production departments to assist in creation of ads when 100% camera ready copy is not supplied by the client. What are the ad production details of this new service?
- What will be the reactions of advertising agencies and media placement services, the traditional intermediaries in print ad sales?
- How will the newspapers' advertising sale staff react, especially those where sales commissions play an important role in compensation plans?
- Will Google need to overcome the plethora of ad dimension standards used by different newspapers?
Bottom line: if you wanted to shake up the landscape of the newspaper advertising business, you couldn't have come up with a better way. The question is, will this move end up being disruptive, transformative, or evolutionary?
I don't know, but I wouldn't bet against Google on this one.