Google Cuts Deeper, Killing Off Print Ads Program

Google has put its print advertising ambitions on ice as part of a new policy to kill off poorly performing products.

Despite the involvement of 800 newspapers, magazines and other print advertising venues, Print Ads never had a meaningful revenue impact for those partners. That suggests advertiser demand never materialized to the extent both Google and its partners had hoped.

In a blog post, “Turning the page on Print Ads,” Google Print Ads Director Spencer Spinnell said Google will continue to work with newspaper publishers to grow and monetize their online audiences.

“We have teams of people working with hundreds of publishers to find new and creative ways to earn money from engaging online content,” Spinnell wrote. “It is clear that the current Print Ads product is not the right solution, so we are freeing up those resources to try to come up with new and innovative online solutions that will have a meaningful impact for users, advertisers and publishers.

The shuttering of the program may be the most striking of Google’s product closures to date. Last week the company announced the discontinuation of its location-aware Dodgeball, a mobile social network, as well as micro-blogging service Jaiku and Google Catalog Search. It has also stopped development on Google Notebook, an online note-taking tool, and no longer accepts uploads to Google Video.

Google also conducted its first-ever layoffs last week, reducing its internal recruiting staff by about 100 positions.

Whereas most of its discontinued products are little-known, Print Ads was an early and heavily-promoted example of Google’s ambitions to broker offline ads using the same auction system that has proven so effective in search. After an initial rollout in 2006, the company continued to pump money and other resources into the program for more than two years. Last March it began testing a barcode system designed to improve performance measurement of print advertising.

The end of the product is a setback for Tim Armstrong, president of operations for Google Americas and the company’s senior-most sales executive. According to many reports, Armstrong has been the company’s most vocal champion of offline ad sales, which have also included forays into radio and television.

Launched in November 2006 with 50 newspaper partners, Google Print gradually expanded to include more than 800 such partners. The decision to end the product will not necessarily put anyone out of a job, as the company intends to find internal positions for Print Ads staff.

“While we hoped that Print Ads would create a new revenue stream for newspapers and produce more relevant advertising for consumers, the product has not created the impact that we — or our partners — wanted,” Spinnell wrote.

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