Yes it is true. I am not a lover of print advertising. Never have been and probably never will be at least not in its current form. Advertising in your local newspaper if you are the town deli is fine, but for national advertisers I have never seen any benefit - no increases in long distance winbacks, brokerage accounts or visits to a website as a result of a newspaper campaign. In fact, when I had meetings I'd often get tossed out early for being too vocal about wasting valuable marketing dollars in newspapers. That's why I found this NY Times article called Newspapers to Test Selling Ads On Google so perplexing.
The first thing that is perplexing is the title which is contradicted by the first sentence that says "In a move into the old-fashioned business of ink on paper, Google is going to start selling advertisements that will appear in the print editions of 50 major newspapers." I guess the title writer was confused too.
Anyway, the article describes how the 100 advertisers in the test will be able to check a box and then place bids to have an ad potentially appear in a newspaper provided the bid is accepted by the newspaper. Judging from the article, it looks like it will work like Site Targeting does today in Google (see continuation of article below). Google won't take any revenue during the test, but expects to take 20% later on. Finally, according to Owen Youngman “Google says they can bring us thousands of small advertisers for space we would otherwise fill with house ads, and we say ‘Great.'"
Seems like the newspaper industry read The Long Tail, which is a good idea. Catering to small business advertisers that wouldn't see the light of day with a newspaper for the amount of money they would spend is helpful and could generate more revenue for newspapers. So, if that's something an advertiser wants, now Google will make it available and give access to some of the largest newspapers in the country. However, the current form as described in the NY Times article won't amount to much in my opinion. Sure, this Long Tail implementation makes sense, but it deviates from much of what makes advertising with Google so great.
You see even with paying for Site Targeting on a CPM basis still works in the Google AdWords model because you can track clicks and conversions of those ads. In the newspaper test, I can't see how the results are going to be measured. Are the advertisers going to use Google Trends to measure buzz or visits to a website? If they experience anything like I have, there will be no measurable impact on any critical business key performance variable. Literally, if you want to give newspapers a try this new process gives you access previously only available to the big girls.
According to the article "Neither Google nor the newspapers would make any predictions of how much advertising would be sold in the program nor what the rates would be. “I have no idea how big this will be,” said Ms. Denise Warren. “For us, we think there is very little to lose in the test.” No there isn't much risk for newspapers or Google by putting this in place to get access to the small business Long Tail advertiser. However, unless there is some new tracking measurement in place, these small business advertisers will discover what I have with print advertising - no impact, proving everything Google is not gold.
****UPDATE ON 11/6*****************
Couple of other articles (see afternoon link post) for Google's newspaper ad trial. I read through all of them and Googled (note proper use of the word Google :-) for past articles and I can't find any concrete plans or screen shots for how the test users are going to evaluate the results of the print trial. My guess is that it will be a combination of Google Trends/Analytics and using a unique URL for tracking the traffic. Nothing new about this tracking. If someone knows for sure, please let me know in the comments below.
Site Targeting allows an AdWords advertiser to hand select sites to have their text and/or image ads appear on. The advertiser does not pay on a CPC basis but instead via CPM. Currently, I am only running this for one of my current search clients and use it for mostly branding.