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OPLIN 4cast #332: Traveler info more valuable than travel info?

Posted in 4cast

suitcaseAt this time of year, as people get more serious about planning summer vacations, travel guidebooks become a popular item at the library, though perhaps not as popular as they once were. The print guidebook industry has never really recovered from the 2008 recession, which caused many people to delay their leisure travel, and has partially been replaced by various online travel resources. Last August, Google expanded its holdings in the travel business when it bought the Frommer’s travel guides for $22 million, but what Google eventually did with Frommer’s a few weeks ago is an interesting illustration of the kinds of deals companies will do just to get some more social data.

  • Google quietly pulls plug on Frommer’s print travel guidebooks (Skift/Jason Clampet) “Starting with Frommer’s New York City With Kids, which can still be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in other bookstore inventories and was supposed to publish on February 19, the entire future list of Frommer’s titles will not see the light of day. Many of the authors attached to these 29 titles told Skift that they were informed by editors now working at Google that the books would not publish.”
  • Google mines Frommer’s Travel for social data, then sells the name back (Ars Technica/Megan Geuss) “Google bought ITA, a popular travel data service, in 2010, and the restaurant rating guide Zagat in 2011. But it was unclear how exactly Frommer’s would live on in Google’s pantheon. Last week, Google paradoxically sold the Frommer’s title back to the 83-year-old eponymous founder, who said he intended to resume publishing travel information under his name.”
  • Google sold Frommer’s Travel — but kept all the social media data (PaidContent/Jeff John Roberts) “The social media data will power Google’s ongoing forays into the travel market in which it offers services like flight and hotel search, and Zagat reviews. In retrospect, it appears that the social media data may have been Google’s goal along when it obtained Frommer’s from publisher John Wiley & Sons for $22 million in August 2012.”
  • Google, Frommer’s, and trolling for social networking data (Lens 360/Bruce Guptill) “What did Google get for seven months of effort and $22M? Petabytes of travel-related social networking contacts and their related behavioral data. Google is retaining all of the data from former Frommer’s followers, from Frommer’s itself as well as from Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and of course, Google+. Now, Google has a wealth of social network user data to integrate with its well-organized, international travel advisory brand – Zagat – and its data management service/platform optimized for travel data use – ITA.”

Sales fact:
While guidebook sales in the US dropped 10% to 20% after 2008, those sales seem to have stabilized recently.