A Conversation with Google’s Director of Print Ads

PaidContent’s Rafat Ali has posted an audio interview with Tom Phillips, director of print ads at Google, which he conducted last week at a VC event in New York. “Dealmakers Summit: My Q&A With Tom Phillips of Google” gives a good overview of the program, which Google is hoping will extend its online auction platform into offline ads, in partnership with 30 newspaper companies representing more than 500 daily newspapers.

UPDATE: I listened to the 30-minute interview (yes, you’re welcome), and found some interesting highlights:

Google just completed an alpha test with about 100 advertisers on 66 major daily newspapers. Phillips said a beta is planned sometime in the spring.

He said that newspapers in the test were all happy to accept the auction-based offers for unused ad space. He said that newspapers have proved to be more suitable to Google’s plans, at least in the short term, as the frequency of ad exposures is important.

On the topic of Google as a friend or enemy to print publishers, Phillips said Google is most certainly a friend:

“I do believe that Google is a friend to the media industry at large,” Phillips said. “We are not a content provider. We help consumers find information. And we help advertisers find their customers. That’s our job. Our natural position is as friend. And yet, because of the growth of the company and our reaching into lots of different domains, we feel threatening to the world.”

“There were some things we did over the course of a few years that were not all that media-savvy, that got us into some hot water,” he added.

For newspapers, Google is structuring the program so as not to step on the toes of the newspapers’ own sales efforts, such as by selling quarter-page or smaller ad units:

“We really want to bring our advertisers into this medium, and we don’t want to go head-to-head with the newspapers’ negotiated deals with their primary franchises. There are two places we don’t play. One is where the newspapers are already selling national advertising, and that tends to be full-page, and tends to be dictated position in the newspaper, which our system doesn’t accommodate. The other is in local, and it’s often confused. … Google’s sweet spot is national advertisers: big, medium and small. Those are the advertisers we’re trying to bring into newspapers. Those medium and small businesses that are selling to a national audience have no access to newspapers in the U.S. and the newspapers have no access to them. There’s absolutely no controversy in us bringing those advertisers to the newspapers. They tend to be advertisers that are going to buy partial pages on an opportunistic basis, and that’s the kind of inventory that we most often open up.”

Google plans to bring tools for targeting, marketing and measurement to the print product as well, and so expects to move to a similar skew toward agency sales, as it has with its search ads.

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