Before it scrapped its ineffectual program for selling newspaper ads, Google Inc. was approached by a British startup that wanted to take the project over and try to help the print media slow the flow of revenue to the Internet.
The possibility that Google's 2-year-old newspaper initiative could have been kept alive surfaced Wednesday, a day after the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it will stop selling print ads next month because its expansion into the niche hadn't paid off.
After learning about the closure plans, London-based MediaEquals told The Associated Press that it had approached Google about working out a deal to help the roughly 800 U.S. newspapers participating in the ad program.
Like Google, MediaEquals has developed an automated system for bidding on advertising space in newspapers and magazines. MediaEquals likens its platform, developed during the past three years, to an online stock market for buying and selling ads distributed offline.
"The fact that (Google's print-ads product) is closing does not mean that technology cannot deliver the efficiencies that the press industry so desperately needs," MediaEquals said in a statement. The company declined to elaborate on its Google talks, the AP reports.
Newspapers face crumbling demand for print ads as advertisers shift dollars to the Internet. The Minneapolis Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy last week, joining Tribune Co., which sought protection from creditors on Dec. 8.
Google’s print ad customers included many of the biggest U.S. newspaper publishers, such as New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., Gannett Co. and Tribune Co. The program took bids from advertisers for newspaper space, with Google getting a cut of the sale. The company’s goal was to make print ad prices more fluid, letting publishers charge rates that better reflect demand.
Google said today it will continue to devote a team to newspaper companies, seeking ways to help them make money online.
The company has been pulling back on services that aren’t performing. It announced plans last week to end development of Google Notebook, which lets users post content from various sources to one site. Google also decided to close Dodgeball.com, a mobile social-networking service, and Catalog Search, which helped users locate items in catalogs, Bloomberg reports.
"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 Print Ads director Spencer Spinnell wrote in an online posting.
Spinnell said Google still has teams working with newspaper publishers to find ways for them to earn cash by using AdSense, YouTube, Google Maps, and other of its services or tools, AFP reports.
"We believe fair and accurate journalism and timely news are critical ingredients to a healthy democracy," Spinnell wrote.
"We remain dedicated to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online."