Google closed its deal with Wiley to purchase Frommer’s three months ago. At the time, it was not clear how the search giant would integrate the brand into its offerings. The retention of guidebook editors and its custom-content team, and layoffs of the digital staff pointed toward a continuation of a guide product of some sort, but Google has been typically tight-lipped about its intentions.
We have our first glimpse now. Early last week, Frommer’s reviews began appearing in the Google Plus Local and Google Maps products. This is the Google Plus review of the Andaz Liverpool Street London Hotel:
The profile includes a rating on the Zagat 30-point scale, but the copy is all Frommer’s, as can be seen at Frommers.com (right).
What’s notable is the absence of any Frommer’s branding. Although Zagat is not credited either, Google Plus and Google Maps has Zagat’s distinctive 30-point scale and burgundy color accents. Google has yet to respond to Skift’s questions about deeper meanings surrounding the missing attributions for Frommer’s, or whether the name will continue to be used at all following the formal handover of all the guidebook’s branding, websites, and services on December 31.
Google paid $151 million for the user-generated restaurant, shopping, and hotel review brand Zagat in September 2011. It overhauled the Google Plus Local product in May of 2012 to deeply integrate Zagat content, to mixed results.
Who has the reviews?
In one sense, a Frommer’s integration would be a more hefty undertaking, as the travel guide had significantly more hotel, restaurant, attraction, and shopping reviews across more destinations than Zagat, which traditionally has focused on fewer high-traffic destinations in the U.S. like New York and San Francisco, and just a handful of international destination — especially compared to a brand that boasted 4,000+ destination guides.
And Google got all these reviews on the cheap: It is rumored to have paid only $23 million for Frommer’s in August 2012. Frommer’s reviews are written by paid contributors, while Zagat relies on heavily edited surveys collected from users. Which model will prove to win out is currently being negotiated in Google offices in Mountain View, Calif. and New York City.
All of these reviews, which will be integrated in Google Plus Local, Google Maps, and Google mobile products, help Google fight TripAdvisor and Yelp, both of which complained first about Google stealing their reviews without consent, then about Google promoting its own results over theirs in search results.