Google has reportedly purchased the rights to the Frommer's travel brand from publisher John Wiley & Sons for an undisclosed sum, according to The Wall Street Journal, presumably to bolster its local reviews of small businesses, restaurants, sights and destinations around the globe.
As part of the deal, Google will have the choice to continue or discontinue the publishing of Frommer's guidebooks, or to move some or all of its content online. Since Google started using Zagat to refine local search in May, it's possible the search giant will meld Frommer's reviews with Zagat's.
"Our commitment is to keep things as they are today and once we combine operations, we'll know better what the future looks like," said Bernardo Hernandez, the managing director of product management at Zagat, in an interview with the Journal.
The deal is not too surprising on many fronts: Stephen Smith, president and CEO of John Wiley & Sons, said in March that the company was looking to sell off its consumer-oriented lines, including Frommer's, CliffsNotes, and Webster's New World dictionaries, to shift the company's focus to "center on those opportunities that meet strong global demand for high-quality information for professionals and lifelong learning enabled by new technology." Smith said that the remaining professional/trade businesses would include the business, accounting, technology, psychology and architecture markets, as well as the company's entire "For Dummies" brand.
"We plan to drive long-term growth, accelerate our digital transformation, and optimize our return on investment by investing in content and services that provide our customers in research, learning and professional practice with knowledge resources that help them to realize their professional and personal goals," Smith said.
In addition, the deal isn't too surprising since Google's main competitor, Apple, has started using Yelp in all its reviews, and the reviews site will be predominately featured and embedded in the company's first in-house Maps application, coming to iOS devices when iOS 6 launches this fall.
"Apple is important for Yelp," said Aaron Kessler, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates in San Francisco, in an interview with Bloomberg. "About 40 percent of traffic to Yelp is from their mobile app. That number may be higher if you include browser- based mobile."
With the combination of Frommer's and Zagat, Google will be able to give audiences plenty of ways to view reviews and/or ratings of local businesses around the world on its mobile Android platform, which is now beginning to extend beyond smartphones to tablets and other devices.
Cult of Mac columnist Mike Elgan explains the move via Google+:
"Frommer's data will be used no doubt to improve the ratings and evaluation of hotels, restaurants and other things in Google+, Google Local and Google Maps," Elgan said.
We've reached out to both the Wiley group and Google, and we'll update you with details of the deal as soon as we receive them.