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The Fourth Network of Search

The Fourth Network of Search by David Utter

A party and a keynote figured prominently from Ask Jeeves at Search Engine Strategies 2005 in San Jose.

Mike McDonald of WebProNews is attending SES 2005, and reported on the opening night festivities and Tuesday’s keynote by CEO Steve Berkowitz.

After prying himself away from Yahoo’s “Search Night Off” after-party at Great America, Mike hit the Ask Jeeves gathering:

“But followed it was, of course and quite ably I might add, by the Ask Jeeves group. Hot on the heels of their recent IAC news, Jeeves was looking to make some noise. They didn’t have any rides, but they did have the Dan Band; they also had dancing girls in the wall behind the stage. Strong work, Jeeves.”

Steve Berkowitz Speaks

Mike heroically battled jet lag and the lingering, ahem, after-effects of the after-parties to attend Berkowitz’s keynote speech this morning, with Danny Sullivan handling Q&A duties.

“Ask Jeeves was left for dead after the dot com boom,” Berkowitz observed. That’s an observation the business will have to battle to overcome, in the arena of public perception. He touched on the introduction of ads via an in-house developed ad placement system.

Those ads, and the search results from the engine, need to get “above the fold.” The company won’t improve its market share until it improves the user experience. Their acquisition by IAC comes into play here. IAC will focus on the advertisements: building out the ad delivery system, bringing advertisers on board. Ask will work on the search side, and Berkowitz notes the importance of integrating Teoma technology into Ask Jeeves. They’ll also work on expanding the My Jeeves feature.

The company has to build its brand, and bring on more talent to help with product development. Branding has become greatly important in the modern economy; while a name change could happen in the future, Ask Jeeves won’t do it in a way that would jeopardize brand recognition.

“So the butler is safe?” Danny Sullivan asked.

“Yes. He’s just a little trimmer now,” Berkowitz replied.

What About IAC And The Fourth Network?

Berkowitz tapped the iWon site as being the “glue” to bring together the disparate IAC ventures. The iWon site, along with MyWay and Excite, has become an important brand to the company. It offers a promotional platform for the various efforts IAC and Ask will undertake to build more market share.

When Sullivan asked about the Google agreement, scheduled to end contractually in 2007, Berkowitz observed that they see that relationship continuing. The key isn’t to compete with Google, or Yahoo or MSN, but to build relationships with advertisers instead.

The “fourth network” reference is a nod to IAC head honcho Barry Diller’s previous work in establishing Fox as a fourth major TV channel. By backing Ask’s efforts with creative engineering talent and the necessary funds to further develop Ask Jeeves, Berkowitz believes they can make the search engine a valuable, viable point of presence for users of search and the advertisers who want to reach them.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580

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