August 9, 2005 1:01 PM PDT
Barry Diller helps Ask Jeeves get in shape
With IAC's deep pockets, Ask Jeeves can reduce its reliance on ad-based revenue and focus on investing in its core search business, Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz said Tuesday in a keynote speech here at the Search Engine Strategies conference.
"The butler is safe. He's trimmer, but safe for the moment," he said of the dapper logo based on English author P.G. Wodehouse's valet character. The newer Jeeves has lost his butler suit and some of his paunch on his namesake search Web site.
IAC announced a $1.85 billion buyout of Ask Jeeves in March, adding it to its more than 40 properties, which include TicketMaster, Expedia, CitySearch, LendingTree.com and Hotels.com. The acquisition frees Ask Jeeves to concentrate on building up its search site to attract more users over the long run instead of having to increase profit in the short run, Berkowitz said.
Going forward, Ask Jeeves will have "a single focus: how do we grow market share?" he said. He predicted the company would grow from about 6 percent market share today to a double-digit percentage next year.
"I don't need to be No. 1," Berkowitz said in an interview after the keynote speech. "Now I don't have to focus on every single quarter; I can focus on the long-term."
The company, ranked No. 4 or No. 5 behind Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and sometimes America Online, will invest heavily in marketing, building up its brand and new product development--and it won't hesitate to hire to do that, Berkowitz said.
Ask Jeeves, which could be truncated to just "Ask," will integrate its search box across all IAC Web sites and will work more directly with advertisers, he said.
Earlier this month, Ask Jeeves launched its own automated ad program similar to services used by Google and Yahoo. Ask Jeeves also has partnered with Google in a deal that lasts through 2007, and previously got about 70 percent of its revenue from its advertising relationship with Google.
In an attempt to differentiate its search results, the company earlier this year added new features that allow users to zoom in or out on narrower or broader results, search for related concepts and scour unstructured data on the Web for better answers to direct questions such as "who invented bubble gum?"
For Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties at Ask Jeeves, the IAC merger means more resources to further improve the search experience and increase user loyalty.
"We've had a great vision of what a search engine should be...but we haven't had the manpower of Yahoo or Google," he said. "We are about to flap our wings. They were clipped a little bit, and that was frustrating."
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