Google Wades Into Print Waters Again

Undeterred by tepid results from its first foray into print ads, Google is ramping up a more ambitious effort to bring its laser-targeted ad system into old-school media.

Unlike the first test, which was conducted last year mostly with magazines and drew lukewarm interest from advertisers, Google this time is focusing squarely on the struggling newspaper market. Advertisers will log onto Google’s self-service system to upload creative, build a media plan and bid for placement. Over 50 papers, including The New York Times and Washington Post, and about 100 advertisers are participating in the initiative, set to begin this month.

To lure newspapers leery of Google’s growing power, the company is giving them total control over the ads that run. In its first print effort, Google mimicked its Web ad network by buying ad space and reselling it to its army of advertisers, which would have been a non-starter for a newspaper like The New York Times, said Denise Warren, chief advertising officer there.

But newspaper executives are open to new ways to appeal to advertisers smitten with Web ads. According to TNS, newspaper ad revenue the first nine months of the year was down 3 percent. “What Google has that we don’t is an efficient marketplace that reaches out to the long-tail marketer,” Warren said.

Google’s track record is enough to lure eHealth, an online health insurance provider, back to newspaper advertising after abandoning it because it was expensive and difficult to measure. It plans to target papers in a handful of markets, then track spikes in Web traffic from those areas. “It’s going to allow us to better understand how print advertising drives Internet traffic,” said eHealth svp of marketing Bruce Telkamp.

Still, advertisers used to knowing the ads that produce clicks will not easily get that kind of accountability, said Josh Stylman, managing partner of Reprise Media, a search-marketing agency. “You’re stripping out a lot of the value you have in the interactive [space],” he said.