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Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - Page updated at 12:00 p.m.
Google buying Frommer's, longtime publisher of travel guides
By Brandon Bailey
San Jose Mercury News
Google is buying Frommer's, a well-known brand for travel guides, in another move by the Internet search giant to expand its portfolio of travel-related information and services.
The deal, announced Monday, follows Google's purchase last year of the Zagat restaurant rating service and the software maker ITA, which makes tools for tracking the status of airline flights and related information.
Google didn't announce any plans for the Frommer's brand, but analysts say Google could use material from Frommer's travel guides to augment the Zagat reviews and other location-specific information that Google serves up — along with relevant advertising — when consumers search for information about restaurants and other services in a specific city or district.
With its earlier purchase of Zagat, Google has sought to compete more aggressively with popular review services such as Yelp in the battle for local advertising dollars. The Zagat deal was spearheaded by former Google executive Marissa Mayer, now CEO of Yahoo.
Frommer's started in the 1950s with a series of travel guides written by Arthur Frommer. Industry experts say its library of reviews is not as extensive as TripAdvisor, a competing online travel service. But analysts at Macquarie Securities suggested in a report Monday that Google may have broader ambitions for the deal.
Google conceivably might try to offer travel services such as hotel booking information or even sell reservations, according to the Macquarie report, which noted that Google has recently added new features to its search engine that automatically track airline information and provide users with real-time status reports on their upcoming flights.
The company's plans are "still not clear, and will take some time to play out," the report cautioned, while adding that the recent acquisitions show Google "is focused" on the travel sector.
The Frommer's deal was announced Monday by John Wiley & Sons, the New Jersey publishing company that had controlled the Frommer's brand. The purchase price was undisclosed.
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