Google Drops Print Ads Program

Not having heard much at all in the past year about Google’s Print Ads program, which let advertisers bid to place ads on hundreds of newspapers using a Google auction system, I’m not surprised to hear today that the search giant is dropping it.

Although it had signed up some 800 newspapers, which initially reported positive results, clearly those results weren’t positive enough. I also wonder if many of those newspapers were either struggling so much with their core business that they had little time to spend on an entirely new way of selling ads, or they had already lost that struggle and gone under.

The move comes on top of several other Google cost-cutting moves, so it fits right into the company’s newfound emphasis in today’s horrible economy. Spencer Spinnell, director of Google Print Ads, explains:

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. As a result, we will stop offering Print Ads on February 28. For advertisers who have campaigns already booked, we will place their ads through March 31.

Interestingly, though, there is no mention of layoffs, and Peter Kafka at MediaMemo says there will be none. (I’m checking with Google on that and will update when I hear.) In fact, a team will continue looking for a better solution, says Spinnell:

We will continue to devote a team of people to look at how we can help newspaper companies. 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.

What will become of Google’s other traditional-media ad efforts, such as radio and television? I suspect that they have more legs, especially TV, given the coming collision of TV and Internet video. But with the hard looks Google is clearly giving all its operations, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes there too.

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