With both Frommer's and Zagat in the fold, Google may be able to solve the problem that's plagued travel companies for the last decade: How to effectively bridge travel and local.
You can trace Google’s acquisition of Frommer’s, revealed today, with that little problem the search engine giant was having with TripAdvisor and Yelp a couple of years ago.
Google was desperately trying to fill in the content gaps in what then was called Google Places as it aggregated Yelp restaurant and TripAdvisor hotel reviews against their will.
TripAdvisor and Yelp officials even showed up at a Senate hearing in 2011 and alleged that Google threatened to ice them out of search results if they didn’t give up their content.
This wasn’t a winning long-term strategy for Google so it bought Zagat in September 2011 and integrated its restaurant ratings and user reviews into Google Local business results, the successor to Google Places, which also feeds Google Maps, Google mobile and Google+.
Zagat is strong in restaurant content, but was playing catch-up in hotel and destination reviews and information.
Enter Frommer’s, which parent company Wiley publicly put up for sale in March.
Very interesting points of interest
With Frommer’s, Google gets a massive amount of travel content — guides to 4,500 destinations, 50,000 images, hotel property descriptions, expert hotel reviews, cruise ship and cruise line reviews, and information about 300,000 events, including festivals, athletic contests and cultural gatherings.
You can expect to see this hotel and destination content weaved into Google search, Google Maps, Google mobile and Google+ and apparently the Zagat team will be taking the lead in the melding efforts.
It is believed that what is left of the Frommer’s team will be joining the Zagat folks in the effort to populate Google search and Google Local results with travel-destination content.
Skift broke the story that Google plans to retain the Frommer’s print team and to oust the online staff so clearly the Zagat team will be in charge.
If you do a Google search for “Chicago tours,” Google Local business results give you website links to attractions such as Robie House and Wendella Boats, along with cryptic descriptions from Zagat with its scores and Google reviews.
But, with Frommer’s now in the fold, Google search results would be able to tap into a “complete guide to Chicago,” including hotels, attractions, shopping, nightlife, restaurants and suggested itineraries, for example.
And, those hotel property descriptions and reviews would make up for Zagat’s lack of depth in hotels, and for the content that TripAdvisor was reluctant to provide.
And, just think about the breadth of content Google would have at its disposal when it inevitably tears down the silos that currently exist between Google Local business results, Google Flight Search and Google Hotel Finder.
Meanwhile, TripAdvisor’s stock price took a hit August 13 on the Google-Frommer’s news, falling 4.59% to around $33.49 per share.
There is concern that Google’s emergence as a travel content provider could convince online travel agencies and hotels to spend even more digital marketing dollars with Google, at TripAdvisor’s expense.
In a note to investors, analyst Herman Leung of Susquehanna Financial Group argues that Google’s acquisition of Frommer’s “does not represent a big threat to TripAdvisor” because of its massive lead in reviews and scale.