Google moves to charted territories

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 11:26 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO - Coming soon to a magazine near you: Google?
Google Inc., the search engine powering the surge in online advertising, is branching out into print. The Internet giant said Wednesday that it had recently begun placing ads in two computing magazines on behalf of small companies.
It seemed a head-scratching move - Google toying with print advertising at a time when most print advertisers are acquiring Internet companies or emulating their techniques in an effort to keep their revenue from being siphoned to the Web.
The Google program ''really is back to the future,'' said Scott Kessler, an analyst with Standard & Poor's. ''When you think about all the opportunities, would you think that print advertising would be one of their priorities? Probably not.''
But Kessler and others who follow Google said brokering ads for print publications made sense. The company makes billions of dollars through a network of advertisers, and it's looking for ways to expand that network to other media.
''Advertising is turning into this math problem for them,'' said Gary Stein, an analyst with Jupiter Research. ''At some point, who cares whether it's print or online or skywriting or whatever?''
Small text ads comprise 99 percent of Google's revenue, so analysts praised Google for trying to tap into the big market for display ads to diversify its business. The company already offers text ads on relevant Web pages and is testing traditional banner ads.
Search-engine ads have proved especially good at helping consumers find products they already know they want. But advertisers and ad agency executives said such targeted ads don't generally drum up interest for new products in the way Web banners and ads in print, radio and television can.
For the initial stage of its experiment, which the company called ''a limited test,'' Google bought single pages in Ziff Davis Media Inc.'s PC Magazine and Future Network USA Inc.'s Maximum PC. Google sales representatives then called some small businesses that often buy search-engine ads to see whether they were interested in buying a piece of that page for a discount.
''For the money, that's a lot of exposure,'' said Jeff Witkowski, president of AHS Systems Inc., a Clarence, N.Y.-based company that advertised its Rip software.
The PC Magazine page, for example, showed ads from five small tech companies and contained the phrase often seen on Web pages but rarely in print: ''Ads by Google.''
''This by far was our biggest foray into print advertising,'' said Michael Keen, president of, a printer-supplies seller whose previous experience with print consisted of an ad on placemats in a diner near its offices in Wayne, N.J.
A Google spokesman confirmed the program, which was first reported by, but declined to answer specific questions. He called it ''part of Google's continuing effort to develop new ways to provide effective and useful advertising to advertisers, publishers and users.''
Jason Young, Ziff Davis' president of Internet and consumer technology publishing, said the Google partnership made magazine advertising possible to thousands of the Internet company's smaller advertisers that normally couldn't afford it. It also gave the print medium, which has been declared moribund by futurists, a needed boost.
''It's a leading entity in the online world saying that print is a really important solution for marketers, so we're thrilled,'' Young said.
Analysts said Google's first effort in print appeared to be intended to simply gauge interest among small advertisers and would almost certainly become more sophisticated if Google stuck with it.

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