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OK, this is going to be a lightning-quick post. Yesterday Google publicly announced their Google Print beta (thanks to Andrey from Search Marketing Standard for the heads up).

I looked at this beta and I have to say, shame on you Google! This is about the most confusing thing Google has ever released.

The basic concept is that you can bid for space in major print magazines – essentially you can buy remnant inventory. Now that’s interesting, though only to a limited subset of Google advertising base. After all, the smartest advertisers Google has are the ones who use lengthy tracking URLs, cookies, and pixels to track every single person that clicks on an ad. And while it would be very impressive if Google could find a way to cookie people reading a magazine (I can see it now, someone sees my ad, then goes into the bathroom, and a toothpaste ad ‘pops-up’ out of the sink), I think we are still a few years off on that one.

So, in essence, the only people who are really going to be interested in print ads are traditional media buyers who a) already have a lot of experience buying offline; b) are interested in branding, or c) have a call-center that generates a lot of leads for them. This probably excludes 80% of Google’s advertisers.

And to make matters worse, the system Google launched doesn’t seem to be designed for this audience. A professional media buyer always has a lot of questions about the ads they buy in magazines. What page will it be on? How many pages total in the magazine? Will it be color? If it’s a half page ad, will it be above or below? Which other advertisers will appear on the same page? What’s the rack rate for a similar ad?

None of these questions are answered in the current Google system. Instead, you simply choose the size of your ad, the publication, the month, and how much you want to pay. Google will then get back to you if you win.

Ironically, Google’s rise to prominence in advertising was based on transparency of information. With AdWords, you know exactly who clicked on your ad, how much you paid, your click-through-rate, your position, etc, etc. Google Print Advertising is the polar opposite. You are supposed to bid in a totally blind auction and just assume that Google is going to do right by you.

I know, I know, this is a beta. Google will eventually figure this out. But right now, this is about as successful a beta as Google Base. And that ain’t saying much!