Google Acquiring Frommer’s Travel Brand: Zagat Integration, Google+ Improvements To Follow

Google is in the process of acquiring the Frommer’s travel brand from the publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in what is a further effort to beef up its Google+ business information listings service. The deal is nearly closed, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which also speculates that the Frommer’s brand could be merged into Google’s Zagat brand following the completion of the acquisition. (Update: it will be.)

Frommer’s has been up for sale since March, when its parent company announced that it intended to explore opportunities to sell a number of its print and digital publishing assets in its Professional/Trade businesses, saying that they “no longer align with the company’s long-term business strategy.” These included not only Frommer’s, but also culinary, general interest, nautical, pets, crafts, Webster’s New World, and CliffsNotes.

The travel brand Frommer’s got its start back in 1957 with the publication of founder Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a Day,” and later expanded to include a collection of over 300 guidebooks as well as the website. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. picked up the property in 2001. Although not confirmed at this point, it’s probable that Google is only interested in the travel content Frommer’s has amassed, and the book publishing portion of Frommer’s business will cease. As for what Google saw in Frommer’s, that’s not quite as clear. Although its brand is still well-known, the quality of its content can be a little shaky – its reviews, for example, are often outdated. Perhaps the selling price just made the deal worthwhile?

Wiley is agreeing to sell all of Frommer’s travel assets to Google, including the Frommer’s brand, Frommer’s Whatsonwhen events listings, and its unofficial guides.  Proceeds of that sale will be redeployed to support growth in other areas of its business, the company has confirmed in a release. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but it’s expected to close at the end of the month.

Google previously purchased restaurant ratings service Zagat in September 2011, which published guidebooks and apps with detailed ratings and reviews. Zagat’s content has since been used to improve Google+ – specifically Google+ Local which replaced the company’s previous business listings service Google Places. Like Zagat, Frommer’s and the other travel content seems a natural fit for Google+ integration as well.

Update, noon ET: A Google spokesperson has confirmed the deal, saying that “the Frommer’s team and the quality and scope of their content will be a great addition to the Zagat team. We can’t wait to start working with them on our goal to provide a review for every relevant place in the world.”

We’re also now hearing that the Frommer’s team will be joining the Zagat team, and indeed the acquisition is related to improvements related to the local search experience across Google. Initially, the Frommer’s content will come to Google under its own brand and will be further integrated with Zagat over time. No definitive decision has been made on the Frommer’s printed guides, but the deal is supposed to enable users discover reviews across Google, which means online.