Google sold Frommer’s Travel — but kept all the social media data

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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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