August 21, 2012
This week Google announced its intent to purchase the Frommer’s travel guide business from John Wiley & Sons. Founded in 1957, Frommer’s rose to prominence with books such as Europe on $5 a Day and quickly expanded to include over 350 different guide books to destinations around the globe. The move is the latest in a series of high-level acquisitions that expands Google’s influence in the arena of travel and local information.
When did Google start this more aggressive foray into Local dominance? Let’s take a look at some of the more recent steps:
1) April 2011 – Google acquires ITA Software, creator of QPX- an airfare search and pricing system used by Kayak, Microsoft, Orbitz, Hotwire and TripAdvisor. Part of the sale agreement included continuing existing licensing agreements for 5 years.
2) September 2011 – Google acquires Zagat Survey LLC. The deal includes the Zagat brand as well as its library of print travel and restaurant guides and its 30 point rating system. Also, Google debuts Flight Search, utilizing the QPX system from their previous acquisition.
3) May 2012 – Google merges location-based Google Places with Google+ to form Google+ Local. The new product incorporates Zagat review data into business pages, providing a more recognized standard for location ratings.
4) August 2012 – Google enters into an agreement with John Wiley & Sons to acquire the Frommer’s brand, publications, and content. This includes Frommer’s mobile travel apps as well as its website with data on over 3500 locations.
With a few key acquisitions, it would seem that Google is positioning itself to become THE key player in the location-based information business. Since their launch in 2004, Google Maps has established itself as one of the TOP providers of mapping data. Additionally, Google has also established itself as the dominant provider of mobile operating systems, with Android commanding a 68% share of the global smartphone market. (Their next closest competitor is Apple with 18%.) The acquisition of the Frommer’s library gives Google a tremendous lift in their location content library. Combining this with the data from the earlier Zagat purchase sets the stage for Google to compete directly with sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. In essence, Google is creating that “one stop shop” for all travel and location information.
Consider the possibilities. The integration of the data with Google Maps and Google+Local will create a comprehensive travel/business search experience. Desktop users can plan their itineraries for their destination based upon their search results and mobile users can take that experience with them “in the field”, using Google’s GPS mapping data to take them directly to their location. (This is where Android’s market dominance comes into play.) Current Google mapping data displays landmarks and locations but the integrations of both Zagat and Frommer’s data means that not only can a user find the nearest Shawarma restaurant to their current destination but they will be able to determine if it is the best possible nearby choice based on the integrated review functions. If Google could then incorporate their Google Offers program into the mix, the result would be a one-two punch for any consumer in an unfamiliar location. Or, Google could just continue their string of acquisitions and purchase local deals provider Groupon who posted disappointing June quarter results. Remember, Google attempted to acquire the online deal site back in 2010.
No matter what the outcome, it’s hard to argue that Google isn’t positioning itself to be a dominant player in the location-based and travel information game. The company has achieved dominance in the search engine and smartphone markets. It’s now more important than ever for businesses to make certain that their listings on Google are accurate and up to date as it would appear more and more travelers are going to be viewing that information.