October 18, 2002 3:51 PM PDT

Pop-ups pushed down at Ask Jeeves

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Taking the air out of pop-ups

August 2, 2002
Ask Jeeves banned pop-up advertisements from its search site, making it the latest Web operator to discontinue the consumer-loathed ads.

Ask Jeeves, which operates search sites Ask.com and Teoma.com, stopped pushing pop-up ads to its visitors on Monday, and it cut back on banner advertisements that appear throughout the site. The move was in response to visitors' criticism and part of the site's new focus on providing targeted ad links in search results, said Jim Lanzone, vice president of product management.

The search service joins several other sites on the anti-pop-up bandwagon. The ads, which spawn a new browser window when Web surfers visit a Web site, will not be sold by top Web property America Online, which this week described its new AOL 8.0 Web software as free of the intrusive commercials. In addition iVillage, as well as Webcrawler's Infospace, banished the ads in recent months. It's a trend that analysts say could portend the death of such ads on many other popular sites, such as Yahoo and MSN.

"Web sites now think they can't afford to anger consumers," said Jim Nail, an analyst with Forrester Research, a research company. "This will pretty much be the death of pop-ups. But they still will be included in the pool of stuff you can do, with a much smaller percentage of total online ad unit."

Still, estimates indicate the ads are growing. The number of pop-up ads rose from about 3.9 billion in the first quarter of this year to nearly 5 billion in the second quarter, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, which measures Internet traffic patterns. Their presence has grown proportionately to the downturn of the online ad market, when Web sites attempted to snare new advertisers with more intrusive forms of promotion. But as the ads blanketed the Internet, consumers voiced discontent, and some sites are rethinking their strategies.

"Pop-ups are either over or under what you're looking for," Ask Jeeves' Lanzone said. The "real nail in the coffin" for pop-ups on Ask Jeeves is that they're not often related to what people are searching for, he said.

Search rival Google has also decried the use of pop-up ads, which can spring up in a way that confuses Web surfers as to their site of origin. To avoid consumer backlash, MSN, Yahoo and others limit the number of such ads delivered to any one visitor.

With its latest move, Ask Jeeves will rely largely on paid advertising links within search results to fuel its growth. The company sells sponsored listings within search results to businesses, and it displays commercial listings from other search providers such as Google. In addition, the site displays algorithmic search results from wholly owned company Teoma, which allows marketers to pay to have a Web site indexed more often.

Ask Jeeves recently reported third-quarter earnings with a narrower net loss of $4.4 million on slightly higher revenues of $17.8 million.

"Search is the No. 1 activity on the Web. We are not a destination, but a doorway to destinations. The purpose of an ad on a search site is to help them with what they're looking for. And advertisers need to fish where the fish are," Lanzone said.

 

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