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Google buys Frommer’s, plans to merge with Zagat?

Google looks set to make major inroads into both the online review and listing business and also the world of content publishing with the news today that it has purchased Frommer’s, one of America’s leading travel guide publishers. According to reports, the famous brand may soon find itself paired with an equally well-known name – and fellow Google subsidiary.

The deal was announced by Frommer’s current owners John Wiley and Sons earlier today, with the publisher issuing a statement that explained that Frommer’s as a brand no longer aligned with its business strategy, and that the sale was the beginning of an offloading of such off-topic brands that would also include Webster’s New World and Cliff’s Notes (Google has not been linked with either property as yet, but you have to imagine that Cliff’s Notes would be a tempting addition at the very least). Wiley announced that the brand would be sold in March of this year. While it’s unknown how much Google has paid for Frommer’s, it’s widely believed to be less than $66 million, the highest possible amount that would avoid automatically triggering investigations from antitrust authorities.

The Frommer’s brand has been around since 1957, when it began with the guidebook Europe on $5 A Day by Arthur Frommer. Fifty-five years later, Frommer is still writing for the company – He started blogging to celebrate the brand’s fiftieth anniversary in 2007 – and the line has grown to encompass more than 350 books across 14 different series, including those produced via partnerships with MTV and the For Dummies series. It’s said to be unknown at this time whether or not Google will keep the guidebooks in print, or choose to make the entire brand digital, but common sense – and the amount of money available from the print editions – would suggest that a purely online Frommer’s is still at some far point in the future.

That said, the purchase offers a lot of possibilities for Google. Although the company has announced that it has not made any decisions as yet about what to do with the brand, it’s widely believed that the Frommer’s brand will be combined with that of restaurant review and ratings brand Zagat Survey, which Google purchased almost a year ago. In an official statement about the purchase, Google said that “the Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team,” adding that those within the company “can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.” Things might not be quite so straight forward, however. “Our commitment is to keep things as they are today,” Google’s Bernado Hernandez – who works with the Zagat brand – explained to the Wall Street Journal, “and once we combine operations, we’ll better know what the future looks like.”

Other possibilities that are open to the company include merging Frommer’s information about local businesses with Google+ listings and Google Maps, augmenting its existing travel booking service, or being used to sell travel-related ads via Google’s own ad service.