Ask Jeeves launches key-word search ad network

Question-and-answer search engine developer Ask Jeeves Inc. launched its DirectHit Network Monday, an advertising service that blends search with paid placement.

The company, which licenses its technology to a number of online media and corporate customers, including Microsoft Corp.'s MSN (Microsoft Network) and Terra Lycos SA, has packaged all of its search products into DirectHit offering its customers tools that navigate the Internet and brings in revenue.

"DirectHit provides relevant search results and an incremental revenue source," said Joshua Stylman, vice president of syndication and partnerships at Ask Jeeves. "We're looking to find the perfect balance between relevance and monetization."

That balance has increasingly been tested as search technology slowly migrates from an arbitrary navigation tool into an outlet for advertisers to reach specific audiences and content sites to sell more advertisements. The most recognized paid search service, GoTo.com Inc., sells search listing placements to more than 400,000 advertisers.

But finding a revenue source in the search technology arena is becoming more important as the advertising industry downturn has an deeper impact on the pocketbooks of Web portals. In late January, The Walt Disney Co. shuttered its Go.com portal, later reopening the site under a revenue sharing deal with GoTo.com. Speculation is now rife that CMGI Inc. will put its AltaVista search engine and Web portal up for sale.

Ask Jeeves' latest service, which has allied with GoTo.com for a portion of its search results, will also offer search results based on most popular results. Similar to Google Inc.'s search engine, which displays results based on the number of links to a specific site, Ask Jeeves' technology ranks search results by the number of times it is viewed.

The company acquired the popularity-based search technology from its purchase of Direct Hit Technologies Inc. last year. Ask Jeeves licenses its engine to 35 online media properties, including Britannica.com Inc. and Snowball.com Inc., as well as using the search functions on its wholly-owned sites.

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