With Google for Print it’s all about reach

Last year Google tested their ad auction concept in the print advertising space. Bill Wise in MediaPost had a theory for why this pilot wasn’t a huge success. In a word: “scarcity.”

Google AdWords succeeds because there are only so many people searching for a term on any given day, and therefore only so many ad impressions than can run in front of this audience. It’s a finite supply of ads, and one that is perishable from one day to the next. Auctions are a perfect way for Google to optimize ad prices.

But printed publications are different. If a newspaper or magazine sells more ads, they can print more pages to accommodate those ads. (Do you remember how fat Business 2.0 was in the heady months before the Dot Com Bust?)

Google failed last year, but they aren’t giving up. They’ve just announced a deal that will include placement of select Google AdWords participants in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and many more. Later in this test they plan to expand into weekly news magazines.

It fascinates me that they are looking at getting involved in the very medium whose circulations they are helping to shrink. In the last six months the average circulation figures of daily newspapers have fallen another 2.8 percent, according to Dan Mitchell of the NY Times. True, he tries to put a positive spin on this news, citing a statistic that if you factor in online versions of the publications, readership is actually up significantly. But that actually helps to make my point: Why isn’t Google satisfied with running their ads on the fastest growing portion of the news business?

I can only think it’s reach. And I don’t mean just readers. I’m thinking portability.

Until this county develops a taste for news delivered to a cell phone or PDA, ink on paper is still the most reliable way to follow Americans into the many nooks and crannies of their day.

I’m only half joking when I speculate that Google may have realized that their AdWords were doing wonderfully in the American office and den, but were failing miserably in the bathroom.