NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Google's foray into print-ad sales is showing every sign of turning into an extended stay. Following a limited test of its Print Ads program, which lets advertisers make offers online for newspaper ad inventory, the company has opened the gates to any Google advertiser and increased the number of participating papers to cover most of the country's most populous areas.
The test, launched in November 2006, was an alpha trial; now Print Ads is in general release.
"We started with roughly 70 daily newspapers," said Spencer Spinnell, head of advertising strategy for Google Print Ads. "Now we have 225. Currently the network embodies more than 50% of United States daily circulation."
'New universe of publishers'
"With this enhanced publisher network we now believe that we're ready and we've just released the user interface, the platform, to hundreds of thousands of U.S. advertisers who already have an AdWords account," he said. "They click a tab and have access to this new universe of publishers. They're searching for inventory by geography, circulation, ad size, section or day of week."
There was a time when newspaper publishers didn't like this idea; "disintermediation" was the word many learned, and then learned to fear. But the trends in newspapering are discouraging enough that any help is welcome now. Google is not the only web giant partnering with the newspaper industry. Yahoo has an advertising and content-distribution deal with a consortium of newspaper companies representing 260 papers.
On Yahoo's second-quarter earnings call this evening Sue Decker, Yahoo's president, said the portal's strength in behavioral targeting was a big reason the newspaper industry decided to go with Yahoo. The deal allows newspapers to open up and sell Yahoo's inventory and use Yahoo's technology.
"We think ultimately we respect content, we respect licenses, have a very strong record of dealing with partners and as we go out and pitch new business it becomes a strong calling card," she said.
Can reject ads
One of the benefits of Google's system is that it allows publishers to reject ads for any reason, so in theory it won't become a way for big newspaper advertisers -- such as telecom companies -- to cut better deals than they could with their sales reps.
Witness the willingness of The New York Times to provide a testimonial. "Google Print Ads has brought in new advertisers who were either too small to consider advertising in a national newspaper or who hadn't tried print advertising because their business was largely online," said Todd Haskell, VP-business development and advertising at The Times.