Google said on Tuesday it would halt its Print Ads program on February 28 because the program to help newspapers make more money in online advertising sales was not working.
The program, first announced in late 2006, was designed to help newspapers find more ways to make money from Internet ad sales at a time when their print ad sales were falling.
"We weren't providing a meaningful revenue impact to our newspaper partners so we are focusing our efforts on how we can do that quickly and effectively using online tools," Google spokesman Brandon McCormick said.
For Google, which has built its larger-than-life reputation as a master of the online advertising business, shutting down the print program is a rare failure.
It comes as Google and newspapers struggle with a poor advertising market exacerbated by the world financial crisis. Google said last week it would lay off 100 full-time recruiters and close three engineering offices.
Advertisers who had booked campaigns would be allowed to place ads through March 31, Google said on a blog posting on Tuesday.
"While we hoped that Print Ads would create a new revenue stream for newspapers and produce more relevant advertising for consumers, the product has not created the impact that we — or our partners — wanted," Google said on a blog posting.
A Google spokesman declined to say how much money the search engine company and its newspaper partners expected to make from Print Ads.
Newspapers tend to make about 90 percent of their revenue, in varying degrees, from print ads, with Web sales making up the difference.
Finding new ways to increase ad sales is an important factor for U.S. publishers whose survival is threatened by falling paid circulation, ad sales and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that they have to pay.
Under the terms of the Print Ads program, Google AdWords customers could place newspaper ads in the same way they buy Web page, radio or TV ad space.
The Print Ads program includes 807 papers, including The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News, according to Google.
Google remains "dedicated to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online," its blog post said.
Search engine companies such as Google and rival Yahoo have touted their relationships with newspapers and their desire to help papers survive a massive shift of the readership to the Internet.
Some newspaper publishers have criticized Google and Yahoo for depleting their audiences — and by default their advertising dollars — by giving away the newspapers' stories on their Web sites.
It is unclear what effect this would have on an advertising consortium that Yahoo has with hundreds of newspapers. Many papers are members of both Google's and Yahoo's groups.