MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: US newspapers, under pressure from an advertising exodus online, have decided to consort with the 'enemy' in a Google test that allows customers to buy space in 50 top US titles.

The trial is limited to a small group of 100 advertisers initially but, if successful, will be rolled out next year. The newspapers involved include those owned by Gannett, Tribune Company and the New York Times.

The system will work similarly to Google's AdSense which sells ad space on thousands of websites via online auctions.

Unlike AdSense, however, the newspaper program will enable advertisers to pick specific newspapers and even specific sections of papers. The publications may reject ads that do not fit or do not meet standards of taste and can set prices on which advertisers can bid.

Google will not earn anything from the test, but will take a cut of the advertising revenue when the service is opened up to all-comers. The company keeps around 20% of revenue for internet ads it places.

Newspapers facing dramatic circulation slides [WARC News: 01-Nov-06] see the service as a way to increase ad sales.

Comments Owen Youngman, vp for development at the Chicago Tribune: "Every day in the newspaper we have a fair amount of space we set aside for ads that we are unable to fill. Google says they can bring us thousands of small advertisers for space we would otherwise fill with house ads, and we say 'Great'."

Says Tom Phillips, director of the internet giant's print operation: "Print adds value the internet doesn't have. The plan is to bring lots of new advertisers and revenues to newspapers."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff