Google to buy classifieds firm?

Tech Culture

Are Internet stars Google and Yahoo vying for a piece of the old-school print publishing world?

The London Sunday Times thinks so. The paper reported yesterday that the search rivals have each approached Trader Classified Media about a buyout.

The Amsterdam-based company publishes hundreds of print and online classified ad titles, including Canada's Auto Trader. Traded in Paris, the firm is valued at $2.2 billion, according to the report.

Neither Google nor Yahoo would confirm their interest in Trader Classified Media for the London Times and a subsequent report from Reuters.

But Greg Sterling, a contributor to the Search Engine Journal blog, is skeptical of a Google or Yahoo deal ever materializing. For one thing, print publishing would be a big departure for both companies, introducing lots of expensive operating overhead. For another, the Internet, specifically Craigslist, has chipped away at the print classifieds business with free listings.

"The traditional classifieds model is under tremendous price pressure, which is another reason this (deal) doesn't make sense."

Google started the rumor mills churning last week after disclosing plans to sell more than $4 billion of its stock. The burning question seems to be how the search firm will spend its money, or more specifically, whom it will spend it on in the event of a big acquisition.

Other rumored Google buyout targets include TiVo, Infospace and companies in China. However, big acquisition would be out of character for Google, which has bought only small, privately held companies in the past.

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