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Google steps in to the real world

Successful trial selling newspaper ads points to corporeal future

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A 2-month trial selling newspaper adverts to Google’s on-line customers has exceeded expectations according to the Washington Post, and will be expanded into a commercial service in the next few months, with radio and TV to follow.

It’s no secret that Google makes its money selling advertising, or that the internet makes up just a part of any advertising budget, so the expansion of Google into print media shouldn’t come as any surprise.

What has proved more contentious is the application of Google’s business model into the corporeal world, where large advertisers are used to a more cosy relationship with publishers than Google generally offers. Google customers are used to bidding on-line for placement, and the same model has been applied to newspaper adverts with some success; at least for the smaller advertisers.

Advertisers pick a newspaper, and a section of the paper they want to appear in, then say how much they are willing to pay. The newspaper decides which bids, if any, they wish to accept.

"We think it's a wonderful way to introduce advertisers to the New York Times and print overall," said Todd Haskell, vice president of business development at the paper, "we'd look to up-sell and migrate those [smaller advertisers] to bigger programs and better positions, and move them out of the Google system. And we've been very upfront with Google about that."

Attempts by Google to do the same thing with magazine advertising went less well, though experiments with radio ads continue.

Google customers may be unused to the lack of feedback, when compared to the click-rates available with on-line advertising, but measuring the success of advertising has always been a hit-and-miss affair and the simplicity of placing advertisements will appeal to many.

Like many Google research projects this one isn’t making any money for the company, at least not yet. Negotiating commercial deals, for Google to take a commission on each advert, is the next stage, and it remains to be seen if a successful trail can be turned into a successful product. Google has proved itself willing to take a very small percentage on a large number of placements in other media, which could well be attractive to newspapers with space to fill, so there’s little reason to doubt the ultimate success of a corporeal Google.

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