Google Print Ads A Failure

    March 27, 2006

Lots of articles recently about how Google’s print advertising program, where the Goog buys up ad space in magazines and parcels out portions of it to high bidders, didn’t attract the interest Google was hoping for.

According to Business Week, CoffeeCup Software wound up getting three ads in Martha Stewart Living, a total of $177,000 worth of ad space, for $4,000 apiece. What a steal!

Also, the article says:

Several more advertisers spoke with BusinessWeek following the story’s publication, echoing similar sentiments. Carl D. Haugen, president of BluePenguin Software, spent $3,000 on an ad through Google, which ran in the November issue of Budget Living magazine. Haugen offered a 20% discount on its antispyware software to Budget Living readers, so he could better track the ad’s performance. Over one month later, the ad had only generated $181.37 in sales, says Haugen.

Now, when I wrote about this in February, I said:

I bid on page ads in every tech publication on the list, on the off chance the bids are actually low. I might bid higher, but I doubt it, unless people want to take up a collection. I guess we could test if print advertising is actually at all useful.

The Publishing 2.0 blog said they “have to scratch my head when I heard things like this from Inside Google”. Heh. Looks like I was right. The ads did go for far below what they normally cost, at a level I could have afforded, just like I predicted might happen. And my statement about seeing if print ads were actually useful might have been pretty accurate as well.

Keep in mind, I use to be involved with selling newspaper advertising, and I never thought the advertisers were getting their money’s worth. Was the bowling place getting thousands of dollars worth of new business because of some ads on our pages? I didn’t think so.

My suggestion to Google: Cut back. Restart the program with much smaller inventory, sell it in a Million Dollar Homepage style, block by block, and don’t add more inventory until you’re making a profit on what you’ve got. This is a market that needs time to grow. Even if it does very little business for the next few years, it can work eventually, if you’re smarter about it.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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