IAC’s new plan for Ask: It’s not, as we reported last week, ditching Teoma, the engine that powers the search service. But it is firing 40 people — 8% of the workforce — and retooling Ask so it appeals more to its core audience. Who’s that? “Women, with a high concentration of users in their late 30s in the U.S. Midwest and Southeast,” according to Reuters.
Jim Safka, who took over IAC’s (IACI) search service two months ago after Jim Lanzone was pushed out, offers up a few more details to the WSJ:
Mr. Safka outlined a new strategy for the search engine that aims to increase the loyalty of its core customers. Instead of trying to build products that would appeal to “the digerati” or “West Coast elite,” as Ask had been, he wants to focus Ask on meeting the needs of its core audience, predominantly women who use the site to ask questions about topics like entertainment and health. To do that, he says the company will launch new products and enhance its technology through efforts like pulling in more community-generated answers.
We certainly think Ask should change what it’s doing, since it’s not working. And we like the idea of niche/vertical search engines. We can’t quite get our heads around what niche Ask thinks it’s serving here, as “women who aren’t that computer savvy and don’t live in Silicon Valley” seems awfully broad to us. But anything is better than plodding along and hoping that a better marketing campaign can fix things.