What is Frommers, and why would Google want it?
In August 2012, Google announced that they'd agreed to purchase Frommers from John Wiley & Sons, the publishing company also known for the "for Dummies" series of books. Wiley purchased the titles in 2001. Frommers is a travel-guide brand, responsible for over 300 books on various destinations. The company started out in 1957 with Europe on $5 a Day and now includes guidebooks, discussion boards, and travel packages from partnering companies.
Now, that's well and good, but why would Google want that? Traditionally Google has left the information to the crowds and has merely found ways to gather it together and serve it up to customers in efficient packages. With Frommers, they're purchasing content experts. But is it really that unique? Google recently purchased Zagat, and while Zagat primarily uses crowd-sourced information, the concept is the same. By adding reputable ratings to local restaurants and locations, they enhance the search results.
Frommers is likely going to have very similar impact. Search for a destination in Spain, for instance, and you can see local restaurants, tourist attractions, and more. You'll get highly relevant advertising served up with the information - care for a coupon for some Tapas and a hotel stay? You may even get information about flight schedules, package deals, and a way to link that information to your Google+ profile to arrange trips with your contacts or get advice from your friends on customer service.
In the end, it's an interesting plan. It's just a shift from the old Google. It's also a shift that has the potential of drawing some criticism from Google competitors. Almost-purchased Yelp may squawk at the idea of having Zagat and Frommers results displaying above Yelp in search results, just as travel search companies were very upset at the idea of Google Flights. TripAdvisor is probably similarly displeased.
Why This Is a Big Deal
In this case, Google seems to be spending a lot of money ($25 million if the deal goes through) to buy something that Wiley thinks is a losing long-term bet. In Google's case, they're betting that adding all the expert information to search results will lead to happier searchers, but more importantly searchers who are more likely to act.
Google's advertising got its start by being relevant to the user. You're searching for cars, you see ads for cars. You're more likely to act by clicking on that ad. These days, we've become pretty immune to such advertising, except when it's exactly what we're looking for. A sale on the camera I wanted to buy? A package deal to Hawaii when I'm looking up vacation ideas? Count me in! This sort of result is valuable to the searcher, lucrative for the advertiser, and lucrative for Google.