* Terms not disclosed
* Reviews to be under Frommer's brand
By Alexei Oreskovic and Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 13 Google Inc is
buying the Frommer's line of travel guidebooks, the latest move
to amass a trove of publishing content that could strengthen the
No. 1 Internet search company's push to become a major online
The sale by John Wiley & Sons Inc comes nearly a
year after Google's $151 million purchase of Zagat Survey, which
offers reviews of restaurants, hotels and nightclubs in cities
around the world.
Google and Wiley & Sons did not announce financial terms for
the deal, which is expected to close shortly.
The deal will meld the 55-year-old travel publisher's deep
database of hotels and sights into a search giant that is
seeking to position its services across the entire trip-planning
process, from searching for a holiday destination and looking up
hotel reviews to booking tours and restaurants in far-flung
As a result, analysts said, Google is increasingly
threatening a range of companies, like review site Yelp Inc
and flight and hotel booking service TripAdvisor
, which are scrumming for a slice of the growing online
U.S. online travel sales are expected to reach $119.2
billion this year, up from $107.4 billion in 2011, according to
"It's been Google's overarching strategy to dominate the
travel vertical," said B. Riley & Co analyst Sameet Sinha. "They
want to dislodge these vertical search engines that may have
gained over the last few years."
Shares of Yelp fell 7.7 percent to $23.87 on Monday after
the deal was announced. Online travel website Expedia Inc's
stock slipped 1.1 percent to $53.83. TripAdvisor fell
4.5 percent to $33.52.
Shares of Google, which on Monday announced plans to lay off
20 percent of its recently acquired Motorola Mobility business,
rose 2.8 percent to $660.01. Wiley & Sons shares were off 1
cent, or 0.02 percent, at $47.58.
Last year, Google closed a $700 million deal to acquire ITA
Software, which provides search technology to companies like
Kayak Software Corp.
But Google's aspirations in travel are just part of its
broader ambitions. For years, the company has tried to help
broker commercial transactions between its roughly 1 billion
monthly users and small, local businesses.
Google's local search efforts - headed by its high-profile
executive Marissa Mayer until she left to head Yahoo Inc
last month as chief executive - has been a priority for
the search engine.
Since acquiring Zagat, Google has given more and more space
on its search results page to business listings from Zagat, a
practice that has drawn regulatory scrutiny and criticism from
competitors like Yelp.
By teaming up with Frommer's, which publishes 350 titles and
covers over 4,000 destinations, Google could further expand its
reach internationally and beef up information on local hotels
and tourist activities across the globe.
"They want to marry content with commerce, and content is an
important part of that equation," said Sinha, the B. Riley & Co
In recent years, Google has not hesitated to offer top
dollar for other properties that it believed could strengthen
its local commerce offerings.
In December 2009, the company unsuccessfully offered more
than $500 million to acquire Yelp. One year later, in late 2010,
Groupon Inc, the daily deals company, turned down a
$600 million offer from Google.
EUROPE ON $5 A DAY
For an acquirer like Google, the most valuable part of
Frommer's is its extensive database of business listings and
tourist hotspots that have been maintained and curated for years
and can be integrated into Google's deep pools of data, analysts
"When Google buys Frommer's they're not really buying a book
publisher or imprint, they're buying a database with both
content and photography," Lorraine Shanley, president at Market
Partners International, a publishing consulting firm in New
A Google spokeswoman said that over time, the company would
integrate the content acquired from Frommer's with Zagat. But
initially, Google will continue to offer the reviews of hotels,
restaurants and sights across the world on the Web under the
Frommer's brand name.
The spokeswoman said there was nothing to announce regarding
whether Google would continue to publish the print guidebooks.
Wiley, which also publishes the "For Dummies" series,
acquired the Frommer's line in 2001.
The publisher had been looking to offload Frommer's in
recent months as it consolidates its business around its
textbook offerings, said Morningstar analyst Michael Corty.
The latest acquisition by the Internet giant caps a 55-year
journey for a series that first appeared in the early years of
commercial air travel. In 1957, Arthur Frommer, a former U.S.
soldier, released his European sightseeing book, entitled
"Europe on 5 Dollars a Day," after fellow GIs snatched up a
similar guide that Frommer had distributed while he was
stationed in Germany.
Written in a breezy style and appealing to the
budget-conscious, the slim book encouraged Americans across a
broader economic spectrum to venture overseas in the flush
His guide, Frommer wrote in the first edition, was meant for
American tourists who "own no oil wells in Texas" and have
"never struck it rich in Las Vegas and who still want to enjoy a
wonderful European vacation."
In the 1970s, tattered copies of Frommer's book accompanied
a new generation of young American backpackers across Europe.
And in the years since, other publishers like Lonely Planet have
also found considerable success printing thick bound guides for
the independent traveler. Lonely Planet is now owned by the
British Broadcasting Corp.
But the golden days of travel book publishing may be over,
given the rise of always-connected tablets and e-books that can
be easily updated with the most current maps and listings, said
Shanley, the publishing consultant.
"People still want to take a travel guide with them when
they go on a trip, but presumably that will erode over time,"
Shanley said. "I'm not going to sound the death knell of travel
books, but the expense of creating a new edition and then
printing it and distributing it is becoming prohibitive."