acquires, other Internet reference sites in search of better answers has bought a stable of Internet reference sites that includes in its latest effort to distinguish itself from online search leader Google Inc. and other much larger rivals.

Besides, Ask is picking up and in its acquisition of Lexico Publishing Group LLC. Terms of the deal, set to be announced Thursday, aren’t being disclosed.

With the addition of the widely used reference tools, Ask hopes to make more money showing ads to people looking for answers to basic questions. “We want to ‘super serve’ those people,” said Jim Safka, who runs Ask for its corporate parent, IAC/InterActiveCorp.

More than 30 percent of the search requests entered on Ask are seeking reference material, Safka said.

The sharper focus on reference tools doesn’t mean Ask is abandoning its role as a “general, multipurpose search engine,” Safka said. “This (acquisition) isn’t all we are going to do. It’s the first tangible piece of the puzzle.”

Without providing specifics, Safka indicated Oakland-based Ask also will take measures to highlight more information about entertainment and health issues.

When Ask trimmed its work force by about 8 percent in March as part of a shake-up, the company’s officials indicated the search engine had decided to would return to its roots as answering straightforward questions. Ask officials also said the search engine would start catering to its core audience of women.

In a Wednesday interview, Safka said The Associated Press and other media misinterpreted the search engine’s intent. He said it would be “myopic and inaccurate” to think of Ask as a specialty search engine.

Ask plans to plant some of its search engine results on the reference sites in an effort to expose its technology to an even wider audience. is the most popular of the newly acquired reference sites, drawing 22.1 million visitors worldwide in March, according to the most recent data from comScore Inc. That represented a 20 percent increase from the same time last year.

Some of the material from and other newly acquired reference sites will be featured at the top of Ask’s search results page devoted to “smart answers.” and the other reference sites will also get a financial lift from their new ownership. That’s because they will be entitled to a bigger commission from the ads that Google displays on their sites under a contract that IAC negotiated last year, Safka said.

While Ask has relied on Google’s advertising acumen for much of its revenue for years, it has been investing heavily in upgrades aimed at positioning its search engineer as a smarter alternative to Google.

Although many of Ask’s innovations have impressed analysts, the efforts haven’t changed the competitive landscape.

Google ended March with a 60 percent share of the U.S. search market, while Ask ranked a distant fifth with a less than a 5 percent share of the market, comScore said. yahoo news

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