Google Kills Print Ads Program

Google continues to trim off its underperforming services, this time cutting one that had been met with skepticism when it launched but nevertheless garnered some support.

On Tuesday, the search giant announced it would close its Print Ads service. The program launched in 2006 and was met with raised eyebrows because it meant Google, an online specialist, would be venturing into print. Print Ads allowed anyone with a Google AdWords account to buy advertising in the print editions of any newspaper that joined the program. AdWords is Google's online advertising platform.

While Print Ads started out with 50 newspaper partners, it now has more than 800, Google said.

Despite attracting those newspapers, many of which are desperate to find new ways to generate revenue, Print Ads apparently hasn't performed well. "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," Spencer Spinnell, director of Google Print Ads, wrote in a blog post announcing the closure of the service.

Google plans to shut down the service on Feb. 28.

Spinnell said that a team at Google will continue to investigate new ways to help newspaper companies. That's despite the company's sometimes-uneasy relationship with the publishing industry. Some publishers, particularly in Europe, have accused Google of copyright theft for displaying snippets of their content on sites like Google News without permission.

Google was building new features for Print Ads as recently as October, when it added an image gallery where users could find free photos to incorporate in their ads. But over the past several months, the bulk of the announcements on Google's "Let's Take it Offline" blog have been about new features in Google's TV and audio advertising services, with little mention of Print Ads.

Shutting down Print Ads appears to be part of the house cleaning that Google admitted to last week, when it announced it would close several other services including Google Video, Jaiku, Mashup Editor, Dodgeball, Catalog Search and Google Notebook.

"In the last few months we've been taking a long, hard look at all the things we are doing to ensure we are investing our resources in the projects that will have the biggest impact for our users and partners," Spinnell wrote in Tuesday's post. "By moving resources away from projects that aren't having the impact we want, we can refocus our efforts on those that will delight millions of users."

Despite Google's successes in recent years, the services closures show that it too is not immune to the economic meltdown. It also recently laid off 100 recruiters and consolidated some engineering offices.

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