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Thu, Jul 19, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Google helping papers win back advertisers


Newspapers reeling from major losses of advertising revenue to the Internet are getting a lift from the company that helped lure advertisers away -- Google Inc.

Google planned to announce yesterday a significant expansion of its Print Ads program, in which advertisers purchase ads in newspapers through the Web.

The company introduced a limited test program last November in which 50 newspapers sold ads to 100 preselected advertisers through Google's computer system.

More than 225 newspapers are participating now and hundreds of thousands of Google advertisers on the company's main advertising system, AdWords, are eligible to buy ads from those papers.

Newspaper publishers participating in the program include Hearst Newspapers, Gannett, The New York Times Co, Scripps and The Seattle Times Co. In all, according to Google, the newspapers have a combined circulation of almost 30 million and serve all but three of the top 35 media markets.

While many industry experts say the ink-and-newsprint days of newspapers are numbered, Google has looked for signs of life.

"We believe newspapers are a critical component in the marketing ecosystem," said Spencer Spinnell, head of sales strategy for Google Print Ads.

"More than 50 percent of adults read newspapers every day, and marketers are always trying to reach new customers. It's always a great multiplier effect when marketers think holistically both offline and online," he said.

Advertisers participating in the program can search for newspapers through a number of criteria, including their circulation and geographic region.

Advertisers can make an offer for a certain size advertisement -- ad rates are listed, but publications often, in industry parlance, go "off the rate card." The advertiser can then wait to see if the ad is approved or the publication responds with a counteroffer.

If advertisers ultimately place ads -- by uploading a PDF file to the site -- Google bills the advertiser through its already existing system, saving all parties paperwork.

"We did indeed get access to a certain number of new advertisers and we're pleased by that," said Owen Youngman, senior vice president for strategy and development at the Chicago Tribune, a publication that participated in the pilot program and is continuing its involvement. Google reports that 98 percent of its pilot papers are still on board.

Youngman said that there were still some kinks to be worked out of the system, including an eBay mentality on the part of online advertisers to make extremely low initial offers.

"Many advertisers not used to advertising in newspapers place bids for space that are far below the price that we're willing to accept," Youngman said. "It can be frustrating for everybody."

Newspapers try to anticipate the number of ads they will sell in determining the number of pages each day. But they often end up filling some space with what are known as "house ads," advertisements for newspaper features. Youngman said the Google program allowed dropping in advertisers at the last minute.

"We're pleased that on occasion we've been able to fill space that would have gone to in-house promotional ads with paying advertisers," he said.

The newspaper program has been the first leap off line for some advertisers, Spinnell said.

"A lot of these marketers have grown up on the Internet -- they've built their businesses here," he said. "And this is an opportunity for them to get additional exposure."

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