Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ask Jeeves and advertising

Jefferson Graham at USA Today writes about Ask Jeeves. Some excerpts:
    The company's signature cartoon butler, known as Jeeves, was a symbol of dot-com excess ... "We had great marketing, but the product just didn't deliver," [CEO Steve] Berkowitz admits about Jeeves' early days.

    Jeeves was initially known for its gimmick: It promised to answer any query formed in a question. Most of the time, though, Jeeves replied with irrelevant links, sending millions away to alternatives such as Google.

    [Acquiring Teoma in 2001] enabled Jeeves to acquire its own search technology and make its search results more relevant to queries ... Jeeves' most profitable move of all [was] deciding to partner with rival Google. Google-placed text ads, which appear atop Jeeves' search results, represent nearly 70% of Jeeves' income.

    "We look at the Web differently — at the credibility of a source, as opposed to just the popularity of a site," says Jim Lanzone, Jeeves' senior vice president.

    For instance, a search for "Bay Area airports" on Jeeves displays official airport sites for San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The same search on Google highlights local newspaper articles about the airports.
The biggest problem I have with Ask Jeeves is the focus on advertising. SiliconBeat illustrates this well with screenshots of the same search on Google, Yahoo, and Ask Jeeves.

On Google, search results are at the top. On Ask Jeeves, advertising (sponsored results) fill the top of the page. Which is more appealing to someone trying to find something?

Ask Jeeves' advertising-focused page may result higher short-term revenue, but Ask is crippling its long-term growth with its obnoxious and intrusive advertising.

[via Gary Price and Andy Beal]

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