A "limited test" with several tech-focused magazines began this month.
Not content with leading the online advertising realm, Google has begun experimenting with brokering print ads.
In the latest editions of Ziff Davis' PC Magazine and Future Networks' Maximum PC, Google has purchased a full-page ad, subdivided it into five smaller ads, and resold it to AdWords advertisers. The initiative was first reported by CNET's News.com.
Though Google admitted to ClickZ News that it had made the placements, a company spokesperson declined to answer more specific questions about the program. Instead, he forwarded an official company statement that reads: "Google is testing a program to place ads from our advertising network into U.S. print publications. This limited test is part of Google's continuing effort to develop new ways to provide effective and useful advertising to advertisers, publishers and users."
Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch, found the move in character for Google. "I'm not surprised," he said. "They've got a large advertiser base, many of whom have not done any other kinds of advertising before, and would like the chance to do print ads."
Sullivan says he got a hint of Google's plans two years ago. He'd asked a Google exec about print ads and the query wasn't met with outright rejection. "They were clearly considering a move in the print space, even back then. This makes it clear that anything goes," he said.
Advertisers include smaller software companies like Rip CMS, SmartLink, SnapStream and Sperry Software, printer supplies reseller Inksite, and online tech retailers Comprella and TechBargains. The page has a small note that says "Ads by Google," but no Google logo. An online version of each page is available at Adsbygoogle.com/pcmag and Adsbygoogle.com/maxpc, which use trackable URLs similar to those of its pay-per-click search ads.
Both Ziff Davis and Future Networks have provisions in their advertising terms and conditions prohibiting resale of ad space. Attempts to reach both publishers were unsuccessful.
While this marks Google's first foray offline, it may be an indication of future plans for the company. One possibility that Sullivan predicted last year would be a Google-branded print directory, complete with Google AdWords ads.
"It's always being pointed out that Google's weakness in local search is that it doesn't have local sales people," Sullivan said. "This would be a way for them to turn things around and do a print publication in a new way, without local sales people."
Earlier this month, it was widely reported that both Google and Yahoo were in talks to buy Amsterdam-based Trader Classified Media, publisher of more than 500 print guides with classified ads in more than 20 countries.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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