One of the more diversified new-media empires is about to up the ante on convergence with next week's launch of AskCity. Speaking at the Reuters Media Summit this week, IAC/InterActiveCorp
In a nutshell, AskCity will blend the best of IAC's TicketMaster, eVite, CitySearch, and Ask.com properties to create a local search site that integrates content with mapping and event functionality.
Yes, IAC is doing some of this already. Its CitySearch city guides have offered up area concert tickets through TicketMaster for some time now. However, the real prize here is in incorporating the Ask.com search engine prowess and the strength of eVite in party-planning guides and online invitations to create a features-rich grassroots experience.
Ask and ye shall receive
"If we keep innovating, great," Diller told conference attendees.
That is pretty much what the company has been doing since Diller began piecing the collection of properties together in the 1990s. Probably his company's most ambitious step was the $1.85 billion purchase of AskJeeves last year. IAC then took the bold step of giving the site's butler mascot his walking papers in February as part of a massive site redesign.
The new Ask.com stood out in a crowd of larger search-engine portals with a clever gimmick: Many of its search results have small binocular icons. Run your mouse over the graphic, and a thumbnail image of what the landing pages look like pops up. It's a blessing if you forgot a page you wanted to find again, or if you just want to make sure that the page fits the bill of what you're searching for.
IAC also backed the remodeling effort with a clever primates-themed marketing campaign that portrayed its competition as primitive. Unfortunately, the improvements and marketing muscle haven't translated into colossal market share gains sans Jeeves. Over the past year, comScore Networks reports that Ask.com's slice has grown from 5.5% to 5.8% of the market. That's just a ninth of the breadth that leader Google
Innovation matters. I figured that Microsoft
Jeeves may have moved on, but Ask.com is always tidying things up. By the end of the next month, the search site itself will get yet another makeover. Diller didn't give up on that front, though he did note that the site will once again be doing things that no one else is doing.
Fill us, Diller
We will have to wait until next week to see how the pieces ultimately fit at IAC's AskCity. Even though we can see some recent initiatives at CitySearch.com, such as a new "CS411" text-messaging service for mobile users, Diller says that the combined offering was substantial, in that the company had to upend 10 years of editorial content and ratings data at CitySearch to make it work according to plan.
Will we get something truly special? Most of the top city guides are already attached to search engines with strong local listings. Time Warner's
It's not a stretch for IAC's Match.com and Chemistry.com dating sites to work their way into the local club-scene content. For affluent travelers in popular second-home destinations, IAC surely won't forget to pitch Lending Tree. In campus-driven towns, it's not much of a stretch to see how CollegeHumor.com would work well with area content. Who wants to bet that IAC's Shoebuy.com shoe store could start publishing walking guides of popular cities?
The interlocking pieces that make up IAC have always had the potential to fit. The difference now is that they are actually starting to come together.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story, though he has been a frequent freelance contributor to IAC's CitySearch. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.