Google Recruits Local Ad Exec

Google has brought aboard Sam Sebastian, a longtime executive with Classified Ventures, to help define its nascent pursuit of local advertisers.

Sebastian will not work directly on the Google Local product, but rather within the AdWords sales organization. He’ll focus on developing working relationships with real estate companies and other local advertisers.

While the fruits of his labors may appear on Google Local, that property will not be his exclusive focus.

“We are excited to have Sam Sebastian join our team as we continue to build our bench of talented leaders in our sales organization,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.

Sebastian’s last day at Classified Ventures, a six-way newspaper joint venture, was April 4, and the parting was amicable. That company’s stakeholders include Belo Corp., Gannett, Knight Ridder, The McClatchy Company, Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company.

Developing advertising relationships with local businesses is key to Google’s long range strategy for Local. It also represents a major challenge for its sales division, which may need to partner with yellow pages providers and newspaper companies to achieve lucrative scale. Sebastian’s background in the newspaper business may serve to enhance Google’s relationships with print classifieds players; but it may also generate tension with them, since he presumably has insider knowledge of their business and Google has an online classifieds product that competes with theirs.

Classified Ventures SVP Dick Burke acknowledged Google is developing competing ad platforms, but said he wished Sebastian the best in his new role.

Sebastian starts at Google on April 17.

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