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While attending Lean Startup day at SXSW 2011, I met with Ask.com VP Communications Valerie Combs to learn more about their new group texting mobile app. It seems that this year you aren’t cool if you don’t have a group texting app. Ask Around lets you view and engage in conversations near you.
You select your radius and then you can see what’s happening around that zone. You can also change the location — for example, you might be at the SXSW conference in Austin but want to see what’s happening at the Berlin main train station. You can also select a “spot” which will give you a list of popular locations to monitor the conversation.
The app doesn’t appear to have topics so it looks like everyone is just bundled together – I wonder how that works in terms of conversation flow. I guess it’s like Twitter – everyone just messages in whatever they want with no actual focus – but in this case the idea is that the conversation should be focused around a specific location.
I asked Valerie what makes Ask Around different than the 847 other group texting apps that have recently launched. She noted that Ask Around is specifically focused just on location – there are no algorithms, no matchmaker services, just a focus on the conversation around a location.
The Ask.com Ask Around app is free for download and currently only available for iPhone.
Below is Valerie’s video demo of Ask Around – you can check out another demo with Abby Johnson of WebProNews who spoke with Ask.com Chief Product and Technology Officer Lisa Kavanaugh.
Continue reading “SXSW Video Demo: Ask.com Ask Around Mobile Group Texting App” »
Earlier this year Ask.com signed a deal with NASCAR racing to be the “official search partner” for the racing network. It sure seems like these days the “official” notation just means whoever will pay the most. Danny Sullivan has a good recap of the NASCAR search deal.
This weekend I noticed that Ask.com is now partnering with TNA wrestling. You can see a screenshot of the promo below. Basically the announcer mentioned a trivia question and said you could go to Ask.com and after entering the full question, you will be provided with the correct answer. The concept has some potential although I think it will work better for NASCAR than TNA.
With the NASCAR deal, Ask.com controls the search on the nascar.com website. The official TNA website has a search engine in the middle of the page however it takes you to a site called SwagBucks with a search that is powered by Google and Ask. Even more interesting, the search results don’t seem to match the query very well. For example, a search for one of their current roster of wrestlers, Scott Steiner, brings me to a generic results page with not one result from the TNA website.
Perhaps the new Ask Jeeves character needs a DDT or a Hulkster legdrop to get his mind right about how site search results should work.
Ask.com announced this morning that they have partnered with Compete to add a new tab to their "binoculars" service which previews a Web site in search before you jump to it. Frankly I’ve never understood why anyone would care about a preview in a box of 100×100, but now you not only get the preview, you also get the stats about the site from Compete.
This is a great deal for Compete to gain distribution for their analytics service. In addition, the distribution will also help Compete with reaching a new audience and could create more loyal users over time.
Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz notes on the deal, "Why did Ask.com add this? It helps the searcher not only preview what the site looks like but also tells the user how popular the site is." Why do I care how popular the site is? I will tell you why. It’s because I don’t. If Ask tells me that x result is the best one for my query, then why does it matter how popular the site is?
ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick gets excited about this deal showing just how open search is in terms of ability to innovate in the space.
At the end of the day, it’s a good distribution move for Compete. Ask adds a feature but they really need a lot more innovation if they plan to come back from the "xyz hates the algo" ads from last year.
I’ve provided Ask with suggestions last year that could easily get them going in terms of market share growth. It sure feels like Ask isn’t interested in growth. I’ve never heard from anyone at Ask regarding my suggestions. I am still open to a discussion CEO Safka, give me a ring.
NY-based IAC is shaking up management across some of their divisions today. Let’s see if I can give you the nitty gritty on the changes.
- Jim Safka has been named CEO of Ask.com. He will also continue in his role as CEO of Primal Ventures, a new-venture entity that identifies seeds and incubates business opportunities for IAC.
- Jim Lanzone is out as CEO of Ask.com to serve as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Venture Capital firm, Redpoint Ventures.
- Scott Garell has been named President of Ask.com, where he will report to Mr. Safka noted above.
- John Park will replace Mr. Garell and is named President of IAC Consumer Applications and Portals, which includes Smiley Central, Webfetti, Zwinky, My Fun Cards, CursorMania, Popular Screensavers, Excite.com, iWon, and My Way. Can you imagine telling people you are the President of Zwinky?
- Peter Horan, CEO of IAC Media and Advertising since January 2007, will continue to oversee IAC Advertising Solutions as well as Evite, Pronto, IAC Mobile and Ask Sponsored Listings.
Most of the changes revolve around search engine Ask. Yesterday at the Citibank conference, IAC head Barry Diller said, “We certainly have not bitten an inch out of the hide of Google…I’ve been daunted by the progress of that.”
I said this as part of my review of the Wikia Search engine and have said it before regarding Mahalo. The switching costs for search engines are very high currently. Google is the Kleenex of search and so there’s really no reason to switch. And advertisements like the ones Ask ran earlier this year don’t help matters. Barry/Jim, I’ve got plenty of ideas on how to turn things around. Give me a call sometime. In addition, I wrote a lengthy piece in April with ways to fix Ask.
SearchBoth, a search engine referral service owned by Toll Free Yellow Pages, has published a survey today suggesting that 70% of respondents prefer Google over the other engines. They note, "On a survey performed on SearchBoth.com by over 1,000 voters, 70% of voters prefer Google over any other search engine, 16% preferred Yahoo!, 8% preferred Ask and 5% preferred MSN. The results were staggering. More than two thirds of the voters prefer Google for search engine results. What most people do not know is that on average 70% of the first 100 results shown on Google and Yahoo! are completely different."
I just did a quick search on both for Web 2.0 and the first page results were almost identical – even down to the videos. The question is whether a person really needs to do searches on multiple engines to find the best results. I do multiple searches rarely.
I do like the look of the results pages on SearchBoth – if you want to search on both, it works well (that is once you get past the home page I note below). A lot of scrolling, but does let you see everything at once. TWERQ has some of this functionality plus a lot more as well – if you want to search multiple engines, TWERQ handles it better.
Side note: Go check out the SearchBoth home page for one of the most busy, out of alignment, scary, poorly designed, wack home pages I have ever seen. How do they expect anyone to use their service when you can’t even figure out what goes with which? Please hire a designer!
What is this???:
I bashed the heck out of the last set of Ask.com commercials and print ads. What a waste of money as they provided no value whatsoever. You remember the ads, those, "xxxx hates the algorithm". The target was wrong and the messaging was wrong.
On the way home from Vegas, watching some live TV on the plane (love it!), I saw a variety of new Ask.com commercials which made me take out my pad and note, "write a post about the new ask.com commercials – they are pretty good". And here is my post. The commercials make sense and you get the point. Mainstream needs to get the point and not wonder who is killing what.
Here is one of the ads using KT Tunstall as the search query. As you can see, they immediately show the difference between using Ask and Google. Done and done. Anyone understands the difference. Sometimes techies want to show off their use of technical lingo for their product marketing but it rarely works for mainstream products.
Of course this seems a bit odd considering that Ask has just taken Google’s money for ad serving for five-years.
comScore released their June U.S. search engine rankings today. Google and Yahoo dropped by ~1% and Time Warner Network (aol?) dropped half a percentage point.
Who grabbed the nearly 3%? Microsoft. Yep, that Microsoft. Here is the explanation from comScore:
Microsoft Sites experienced a significant increase in search query volume (up 36 percent) and search market share (up 2.9 share points) in June, due in large part to Live Search Club, a program launched by Microsoft in late May to engage and reward users of Live Search.
So if you don't think rewarding users works, think again. For Microsoft it provided a huge lift. From my previous consumer marketing experience, I believe that rewarding loyal users keeps them loyal and gets them to spread your message.
Derek at Internet Marketing Monitor has another viewpoint:
As we’ve said before, this isn’t really that surprising. Live Search Club aside, Windows Vista and Internet Explorer are both driving users to MSN/Live.com. As Vista adoption continues to increase, so too should Microsoft’s search numbers… in theory.
Check out our previous reports from comScore.