Monday, January 26, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Before it scrapped its ineffectual program for selling newspaper ads, Google Inc. was approached by a British start-up that wanted to take the project over and try to help the print media slow the flow of revenue to the Internet.

The possibility that Google’s 2-year-old newspaper initiative could have been kept alive surfaced Wednesday, a day after the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it will stop selling print ads next month because its expansion into the niche hadn’t paid off.

After learning about the closure plans, London-based MediaEquals Ltd. told Associated Press that it had approached Google about working out a deal to help the roughly 800 U.S. newspapers participating in the ad program.

Like Google, MediaEquals has developed an automated system for bidding on advertising space in newspapers and magazines. MediaEquals likens its platform, developed during the past three years, to an online stock market for buying and selling ads distributed off-line.

“The fact that (Google’s print-ads product) is closing does not mean that technology cannot deliver the efficiencies that the press industry so desperately needs,” MediaEquals said in a statement. The company declined to elaborate on its Google talks.

Google spokesman Brandon McCormick declined to comment about MediaEquals’ interest in the newspaper-ad program.

When it launched its push to sell newspaper ads, Google originally hoped to help ailing publishers and lessen its own reliance on the online ads that account for nearly all of its more than $20 billion in annual revenue.

However, the deepening recession has prompted Google to tighten its purse strings and abandon some services that aren’t delivering the returns management envisioned. The company also is cutting costs by jettisoning some of its 10,000 contractors and laying off a smattering of its 20,100 employees.

MediaEquals, though, is still trying to expand. Late last year, it signed up large British publishers, and this year, it wants to make the leap to the United States. MediaEquals also plans to use its technology to sell ads on outdoor billboards and radio, two forms of media that Google is still pursuing.

Nokia discontinues WiMax tablet computer

Just as Clearwire Corp. has fired up its long-awaited WiMax wireless-data network in two cities, Nokia Corp. has stopped selling the only portable gadget that can use the network without accessories.

Nokia spokeswoman Laurie Armstrong on Wednesday confirmed that the company has discontinued the N810 Internet Tablet WiMax Edition.

Ms. Armstrong said that Nokia is still interested in WiMax and that by the time WiMax networks are widely deployed, “refreshed products with even better performance will be required.”

Nokia’s portable computer, which has a 4.1-inch touch-sensitive screen and a slide-out keyboard, is still for sale for $438 in a version without a WiMax modem.

WiMax, sometimes described as a long-range version of Wi-Fi, is a competitor to traditional cellular broadband technologies. It offers relatively fast data speeds, and its proponents hope that WiMax antennas will be built into a variety of gadgets, from small computers to global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Leading computer manufacturers have announced their intention to make their laptops WiMax-capable, but for now, the only way to use Clearwire’s “Clear” network is with plug-in modems.

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