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Google to halt Print Ads program for newspapers

GOOGLE Inc said yesterday it would halt its Print Ads program on Feb. 28 because the program to help newspapers make more money in online advertising sales was not working.

The program, first announced in late 2006, was designed to help newspapers find more ways to make money from Internet ad sales at a time when their print ad sales were falling.

"We weren't providing a meaningful revenue impact to our newspaper partners so we are focusing our efforts on how we can do that quickly and effectively using online tools," Google spokesman Brandon McCormick said.

For Google, which has built its larger-than-life reputation as a master of the online advertising business, shutting down the print program is a rare failure.

It comes as Google and newspapers struggle with a poor advertising market exacerbated by the world financial crisis. Google said last week it would lay off 100 full-time recruiters and close three engineering offices.

Advertisers who had booked campaigns would be allowed to place ads through March 31, Google said on a blog posting yesterday.

"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," Google said on a blog posting.

A Google spokesman declined to say how much money the search engine company and its newspaper partners expected to make from Print Ads.

"It's a very small part of our revenue stream," said New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis.

Newspapers tend to make about 90 percent of their revenue, in varying degrees, from print ads, with Web sales making up the difference.

Finding new ways to increase ad sales is an important factor for US publishers whose survival is threatened by falling paid circulation, ad sales and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that they have to pay.

Under the terms of the Print Ads program, Google AdWords customers could place newspaper ads in the same way they buy Web page, radio or TV ad space.

The Print Ads program includes 807 papers, including The New York Times, News Corp's New York Post, the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, Tribune Co's Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Hearst Corp's San Francisco Chronicle, and MediaNews Group's San Jose Mercury News, according to Google.

Google remains "dedicated to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online," its blog post said.

Search engine companies such as Google and rival Yahoo Inc have touted their relationships with newspapers and their desire to help papers survive a massive shift of the readership to the Internet.

Some newspaper publishers have criticized Google and Yahoo for depleting their audiences -- and by default their advertising dollars -- by giving away the newspapers' stories on their websites.

It is unclear what effect this would have on an advertising consortium that Yahoo has with hundreds of newspapers. Many papers are members of both Google's and Yahoo's groups.

Google shares, already dragged down with the broader market, fell 5.65 percent to close at $282.75 on the Nasdaq stock market.


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