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Ask Abandons Search - Becomes a Women's Vertical

 4:20 am on Mar 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

According to this report from the Associated Press [sfgate.com]:

Ask.com is abandoning its effort to outshine Internet search leader Google Inc. and will instead focus on a narrower market consisting of married women looking for help managing their lives.

...With the shift, the Oakland-based company will return to its roots by concentrating on finding answers to basic questions about recipes, hobbies, children's homework, entertainment and health.

I thought women's lives today were more complicated than housework and children, hehe.


JAB Creations

 5:17 am on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think people are grossly ignoring the issue: evolution's built in roles for genders.

All life forms have two goals. 1.) Survival and 2.) Reproduction. Survival overrides all lesser goals (if a bus is coming at you while playing chess in the park your minor goal of winning the chess game is negated to ensure your survival as this is what nature intends).

This topic correlates directly to reproduction. In nature males and females in healthy situations fulfill roles to enable the survival of their offspring. America is an example where this is blatantly obvious that people's priorities are grossly distorted from what is healthy. The divorce rate is well over half. Single parents simply have fewer resources and are not able to raise children better then two parent homes. In a healthy natural environment a mother needs to bond with her children and studies have shown that children who have had nurturing mothers are more successful in the long term.

As far as this applies to women in our field I say they have it made if they are able to work from home. Nature aside I personally think women should have the same opportunities as males to pursue things in life so long as they do not deny the fact that they have gender based roles to fulfill as males have theirs. This isn't sexist, it's genetics. Who here would disagree that with that and then admit to saying their children do not deserve an edge in life? Nature is capitalistic in a sense where we are essentially competing for resources. There was a thread posted on this very site that discussed how males spend more time creating new resources while females spend more time utilizing existing resources.

I know a lot of people will not agree with what I am saying but frankly nature does not care as it lacks the capacity to hold bias. Nature just is and gender roles just are that. If you go against nature you don't get the benefits that come along with the territory.

Males are also offenders when it comes to gender roles. There simply are too few male role models to set an example. In the 80s and 90s we went from one extreme (Arnold kills everyone) to another (Arnold becomes pregnant). I could go deep in to the subject however I'm not sure how strict political-correctness is regardless of the fact that gender is the topic we're discussing in this thread so I'll leave it at that.

As far as Ask is concerned I can not agree with any notion that their statement is in any way insulting. Nothing they stated in the quoted portion in the original poster's comments seemed to suggest that women can or should not pursue their own dreams and goals in life.

Personally I'd love to marry a women who is business minded and driven to succeed but I also want children and would not even think of courting a female who has clearly lost her maternal instincts; I want my future children to succeed!

I would like to conclude that we all should follow our dreams and goals while not ignoring naturally inherent roles. We can work out dreams and goals in to our lives and be successful but we can not work our roles out of our lives and expect the same results. If you disagree just picture Arnold pregnant.

- John


 6:46 am on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

So are they still going to be a search engine? If so are they not going to have things outside the "womens niche" in the index? What about the 3.5 Billion in AdWords revenue the current deal is supposed to bring in? Why would someone go to Ask to find that information when Google will have the same and more? They are skewed female but if I remember right its about a 55/45 split so its not THAT skewed toward a female user base.

It sounds like they'll be dead or the technology will be bought by someone in the next year or two and we'll have AskMicrosoft.com or something like that with Balmer the butler giving out tips on how to play Monopoly.


 7:12 am on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Danny Sullivan on Ask.com's plans: "The truth is, you're dead."

Hahaha. No need to worry - If this doesn't work, maybe you can become a social networking site for seniors. Or a vertical search engine for the automobile industry.


 9:52 am on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Doesn't ivillage.com (plus all their stable sites from NBC including Astrology.com), already do quite nicely in the niche that Ask want to enter with no content or experience?


 9:56 am on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

If this doesn't work, maybe you can become a social networking site for seniors.

Sounds like a great idea. Combine that with the women's portal and a bit of search and they could be onto a winner...only time will tell...

Receptional Andy

 10:25 pm on Mar 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Webpronews are reporting today [webpronews.com] that it was all a bit of a misunderstanding:

"The idea that we're going to become a 'women's site' is not correct"...Ask says that the original AP report had an erroneous headline, and it'ís pretty much been downhill from there


 12:33 am on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

<==== chooses to ignore balam's pissing contest.

Now that the thread essentially got hijacked (starting off with the first personal attacks), getting back in focus on issues, anyone who's functioned in some sort of capacity in what could be called the "womens market" for any length of time (which I personally have since 1998) and reads website logs/stats regularly, can have a pretty good idea of how a good part of Ask's female "demographic" searches at an engine (they search the same way at MSN, who are also pure gold for women out shopping, BTW) - and more importantly, what they BUY.

Regardless of mis-quoting and/or mis-reporting, the figures can stand as reliably accurate, and are not news or a surprise to many people. But the fact is that Ask has not capitalized on what many have known for years to be their strengths. The bottom line is that what's important is whether or not money is spent; in the final analysis, it's really all about revenue and profit.

When I started at iVillage back in 1998, they were already the web's largest women's community, with over 1M members and hundreds of message boards and active chat rooms. I spent over two years there as a board host, chat host & chat room "bouncer" before leaving in favor of frequenting a more "male" community. In the interim they had an IPO and went public, but then around 2001 were on the verge of losing their NASDAQ listing, the stock had sunk so low. There were staff layoffs, unprofitable "community" features were cut back on, and a whole different model had to happen in order to survive, including steadily acquiring other properties.

The point is that sometimes a change of model is necessary in order to stay afloat, and that can't mean tightening up on a limited focus - it has to mean broadening the reach, even if that means better serving current users' needs as a foundation and changing the scope of the offering in order to widen the appeal.


finding answers to basic questions about recipes, hobbies, children's homework, entertainment and health.

The topic areas are incorrect (and incomplete and insulting) and might have been pulled out of thin air or by incorrect supposition, but the fact remains that what was long touted was that people could type in searches in full question format like: "where can I buy a Maidenform bra" and get searches returned for their query that answered their questions.

IMHO that was a gimmick - it's nothing more than natural language processing all dressed up with a fancy name. The "gimmick" might have worked to some extent, including the butler, but the fact remains that in spite of it, they've got some darn good search and it would be super wonderful if they'd prosper and get more market share.

[edited by: Marcia at 1:07 am (utc) on Mar. 7, 2008]


 6:42 pm on Mar 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

> Doesn't ivillage.com . . . already do quite nicely in the niche that Ask want to enter with no content or experience?

iVillage, about.com, glam.com, etc. Yes, they all do what Ask.com says it wants to do.

... Internet conglomerate InterActiveCorp bought Ask and its affiliated Web sites for $2.3 billion in 2005. But Ask.com remained an also-ran, despite spending tens of millions of dollars on an advertising blitz about dozens of new products that impressed many industry analysts.

You guys remember the crazy Ask.com TV ad not too long ago? "Chicks With Swords." ROTFLMAO!

So that's quite the little switcheroo there. From male-targeting to married women. Hmmm.

Maybe soon they'll move on to kids. I think the Ask idea appeals to kids... i.e... putting your search idea into a question.

Occasionally I get organic SE traffic from question searches. They always make me chuckle--cute!

(I've also occasionally got one word plus three exclamation marks--maybe for faster results?!)

So the SE industry is undergoing some changes. Besides the exit of Ask.com (the audacity of thinking it could compete with Google!), Yahoo is moving into Microsoft's control (?).

What's next? Google will buy Microsoft.



 6:09 am on May 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

"In other news today, the Coca-Cola company announced the introduction of New Coke..."


 6:22 am on May 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

>>putting your search idea into a question.

Which happens to work with the others, too. Read the thread in Foo about the bug crawling in the guy's monitor, then go to Google and type in "what's the life span of a gnat or fruit fly." You *will* get your question answered.


 4:00 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)


Mr. Safka, who took over as chief executive of Ask.com in January, replacing Jim Lanzone, had indicated that the search engine would focus on its core audience, which is predominantly female, and emphasize queries framed as questions, as opposed to a list of keywords.

On Wednesday, however, he said Ask.com would remain a general-purpose search engine.


Good decision, IMO. And not just because Ask.com is good to me with SERPs.


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