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Google, as part of a series of cutbacks, is eliminating its Print Ads program, which had 800 newspapers and other print sources participating. The program, which began in November 2006 with 50 newspaper partners, stops selling new placement Feb. 28.

The Print Ads program, launched for Google by online pioneer Tom Phillips (DejaNews, Starwave, Go Network, etc.), used Google’s system to auction off print space. It has been part of a broad effort to engage other media and get beyond online text ads.

“Remember where 93 percent of your revenue comes from,” said Phillips, in a 2007 presentation to the Newspaper Association of America. “Don’t forget your core business. Our goal is to bring more revenues to our partners. We (the print ads program) only survive if the print business thrives. We think we can help turn the table.”

The program has been especially interesting as an alternative to Yahoo’s newspaper consortium, which has been cultivating its online aspirations in search, national advertising and article placement. Print Ads, by comparison, has been entirely about adding new advertisers to the declining print product. Advertisers taking part were not typical newspaper fare. They included Sur La Table, ServiceMagic,, Covad and Blue Nile.

A post on Google’s company blog attributed to Print Ads Director Spencer Spinnell notes that the company remains dedicated “to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online. We have teams of people working with hundreds of publishers to find new and creative ways to earn money from engaging online content. AdSense, DoubleClick, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Earth, Google News and many other products are a part of our significant investments to innovate in this space.”

The manner in which Google has positioned Print Ads with parallel traditional media programs (Radio Ads and TV Ads) in the past makes us wonder how this move affects those programs. According to a Google representative we reached today, it shouldn’t at all: Stepping away from newspaper ads is an isolated move, based on dynamics and the current state of the medium itself.

“We made the decision to stop supporting Print Ads based on the impact the product was having for our partners and advertisers. We weren’t having the impact we wanted,” said a Google rep. “With regards to radio and TV ads and how those tie in, we’ve made excellent progress with adding inventory from NBC Universal and the Hallmark Channel, and the Audio Ads program is doing well with more than 1,600 radio stations.”

Additional Reporting by Mike Boland


Related: See TKG report on Google’s traditional media programs, “Google’s Next Frontier: Traditional Media.”

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