Unofficially obsessed with Google.

Google Announces AdWords for Print Publications, Magazines

2/08/2006 07:15:00 PM

Wow. Every couple of product releases, Google comes up with something to really shake us up. The latest in this series of "Hmm.. where are they going with that?" announcements is AdWords for print publications. Google has announced, via its Inside Adwords blog, that it is auctioning off whole page, 1/2 page, and 1/4 page ads in 25 premium magazines for 3 issues per magazine. You can bid online through an AdWords account until February 20, 2006, after which winning bidders will be emailed creative specs for the ads that will appear in the publications. Interestingly, one caveat for these ads that Google has established is that no ad should resemble a traditional online AdWords ad.

While the wide release of this strategy is new as of today, Google has tested some ad sales programs in other media before: see Google's newspaper print ads in the Chicago Sun-Times and Google's purchase of dMarc radio advertising.

While you can view the official print publications AdWords FAQ, here are some other issues Googlist has pondered and attempted to answer:

Q. How much will these ads cost?
A. The FAQ states "it's in your best interest to bid the maximum amount you're actually willing to pay for the space you select" since bidding works like AdWords online to reduce to your "minimax" payment amount. The example given is that a person might make a $12,000 bid for 3 1/4 page spots, which approximates to $16,000 for a whole page and $8,000 for a half page. Experimentally, hypothetically, and completely underestimatingly speaking. I'm betting these ads will go for much more as it's very unusual that independent advertisers would have the opportunity to put creatives in these publications without agency representation and waiting in a queue for availability.

More reasons to think the Google print ads will auction to much higher rates comes from the standard rates charged by the magazines themselves. Here are the typical rates for a Conde Nast publication, Vanity Fair. (Conde Nast is not a participating publisher, but they are effectively the omniscent deity of print mags and so a valid source for rate estimations.) Choose additional publications from the dropdown on that site and click Rates on the left sidebar to view rate cards for other publications. For a 1/4 page advertisement, you can expect to pay between $20k and $100k across Conde Nast titles. The advertising rates for PC Magazine, which is included in the Google print ads test and which is likely to be a top target for online ad bidders, run $45k to $75k for a full page under normal contract terms. In another genre, the Martha Stewart rate card (.pdf) quotes advertising from $40k to nearly $160k for various page sizes and arrangements. Google is most certainly paying an extreme premium to reserve the ad space and is presumably auctioning the space off at what will be a lesser price for independent advertisers, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will be the case. It could be seen as such a novel idea that the opportunity will become a showcase of those who can pay as much as possible for tiny ad spaces just to be a part of the Google test. We shall see! But whatever the prices end up being, they will be much more than $4k for a 1/4 page. (I think that number is just suggested to weed out people who think they can get a spot for $100.)

Q. Who can advertise?
A. Google terms the advertisers in this test "businesses," which indicates that the advertisements are expected to be for technology products, web services, or particularly well financed brick and mortar enterprises. The Google AdWords Content Policy indicates that well-behaved political and non-profit organizations can participate in regular AdWords bidding. As the print publication seems to be following the same policy, I see no reason why a smart political candidate or indignant political cause wouldn't submit bidding for upcoming issues. Google has only forbidden particularly discriminatory or attacking ads, leaving the question of whether or not politicos can swipe the space open to interpretation. I expect that the majority of the advertisements will be what one might expect, but a small few will be surprising "make you think" spots.

Q. Will there be analytics?
A. Google's short answer is no. But I'm betting they'll roll out something that will surprise us all like an end analysis of the success of this program versus the costs of traditional print media buying. Anyways, unlike the online AdWords program and more sophisticated ad serving programs used by corporate websites, print ad pages do not carry the ability to count clicks, impressions, and uniques. While circulation counts and newsstand sales can estimate impressions, that data is only valuable insofar as readers actually flip through every page and pass their eyes across every advertisement. A suggestion for creating a redirect URL for the specific advertisement to count resulting impressions has been made, and I think it's a good one. The only issue is what portion of readers will actually go their computers and type in the URL? Only a select number of those which have viewed the ad, some of which may be saving action for later. In the future, the use of paper-like computer screens for the news and mags will allow computer-based analytics for traditionally print publications. Perhaps the two will be merging sooner than we can guess. That's quite the rumination!

Q. Why is Google doing this?
A. Google states in its print publications FAQ that this is "an experiment" much like its previous experiments that have resulted in full-fledged implementation (AdWords site-targeting being one of those it says). It looks to me like Google is buying up ad containers in various media markets in order to provide more distribution channels for the ad sales it conducts on the Internet. (Not coincidentally, these more traditional media markets can give Google much higher profit margins...) Perhaps its vision is for anyone to login to AdWords and have the capability of bidding on ad spots for television, radio, newspaper, magazines, and various other kinds of new media like streaming radio, etc. This would begin to democratize the purchase of ads and eliminate the necessity of agencies as the advertiser to publisher middlemen. So, for instance, the inventor of a brand new technology widget could (with sufficient funds available) take on the marketing and advertising of his widget within media markets without use of expensive agencies or connections. This sounds like just what the world's entrepreneurs and small businesses have been waiting for. It also sounds like just the print revolution that magazine and newspaper publishers have been waiting for. A multitude of parties can benefit from the freshness of Google's idea here.

This is certain to tip even more people to the side of "Google is taking over the world!", but for the rest of us, let's just sit back and wait for the first of these Google print ads issues to arrive on newsstands to see the results.


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