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Summary:

People wondered why Google sold Frommer’s Travel barely nine months after acquiring it in the first place. The answer is that it’s keeping a huge number social media followers from sites like Facebook.

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Mystery solved. Many were scratching their heads over why Google sold Frommer’s Travel Guides this month — less than a year after buying the brand for $22 million. The answer is the same as for why Google does nearly anything: data.

As Skift reported Tuesday, Google handed over the company to founder Arthur Frommer sans social media accounts. In other words, Google is keeping all of the followers that Frommer’s accrued on Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. These thousands — or more likely millions — of accounts are valuable because they represent a huge collection of serious travel enthusiasts.

While Google will not keep the Frommer’s name, it’s able to keep the followers by simply changing the name on the account; in the case of Twitter, all of the @FrommersTravel followers are now following Google-owned @ZagatTravel:

The social media data will power Google’s ongoing forays into the travel market in which it offers services like flight and hotel search, and Zagat reviews.

In retrospect, it appears that the social media data may have been Google’s goal along when it obtained Frommer’s from publisher John Wiley & Sons for $22 million in August 2012. The company has not disclosed how it much received for selling the brand back to Arthur Frommer, who intends to relaunch the title’s print editions, which Google decided to discontinue in favor of digital-only offerings.

In response to a question about the social media accounts and the price of the sale, Google provided this response:

We’re focused on providing high-quality local information to help people quickly discover and share great places, like a nearby restaurant or the perfect vacation destination. That’s why we’ve spent the last several months integrating the travel content we acquired from Wiley into Google+ Local and our other Google services. We can confirm that we have returned the Frommer’s brand to its founder and are licensing certain travel content to him.

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  1. I remember Pauline Frommer from college as an exceptionally decent person – I wish her and her family all the best.

  2. I don’t buy this argument. This is a tiny amount of social data for Google.

  3. Not just the followers/ fans but consolidating the digital travel market. They likely already have many of those followers on other properties and the data is easily searchable. They stripped Frommer’s of their digital assets… which doesn’t seem to bother the book-loving Frommer’s too much!

  4. It may be, but cross-branding is no joke and Google has the clout to make the social side stay with Google and Zagat and thus inflate its reputation in the travel space.

  5. Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Interesting — Thanks!

    Olga Kovshanova, MBA, MA
    Hotel Professional Extraordinaire
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  6. Unless I am missing something it seems Google overpaid for Frommers, didn’t know what to do with it and worked this out quite quickly. I expect Arthur Frommer got a good deal and good luck to him! Frommers were not that successful or significant in social media and I can’t imagine their followers will be happy being bought and sold – they are Frommers users, not Zagat’s. This deal seems to be reminiscent of the BBC’s disastrous purchase of Lonely Planet.
    Tom Pitman – founder of http://www.wordtravels.com.

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