Integrating the Frommer's brand will pose a bigger challenge to Google than Zagat did. Not only does the brand have a print legacy of over 55 years, but its digital chops have been dulled by layoffs and it will take some time to adjust its print-first strategy.
Google’s purchase of the Frommer’s brand and its assets from publisher John Wiley & Sons closed today, just three weeks after the Wall Street Journal first reported the purchase. The price, estimated to be between $23 and $25 million, has yet to be confirmed.
Although Google confirmed the deal’s closure to Skift this morning, it has has not confirmed how it will incorporate the travel brand into the company; namely, if it will continue to sell books, run the Frommers.com website, or build custom products for other travel companies.
While it has retained many book editors, who moved this past Friday from Wiley’s Hoboken office to Google’s building in Chelsea, the employees who specialized in book production were not retained. The future of the Frommers.com website is in doubt as the entire digital team has also been terminated. Members of Frommer’s licensing and custom content team, which has deals in place with companies such as The New York Times, American Airlines, Bing, and AARP, will join Google.
Their experience in managing digital-first projects suggests that Google may indeed be focused on building out listings content to compete in the local sphere as opposed to creating print products. Continuing the Frommer’s print product would be more complex than the Zagat publishing program as there is little difference between the text in a Zagat book and the online product. With a travel book, listings information is tied together by narrative content, background information, resources, and other types of information that may or may not need to be included online. Google has yet to demonstrate it has the stomach for print content that isn’t ideal for online use.
Disclosure: Skift co-founder Jason Clampet was till recently the online editor at Frommers.