TopRank Online Marketing
Lee Odden

Barry Diller Keynote at SES NY 2006

By Lee Odden     Ask, Marketing Industry News, Marketing PR Conferences, Search Engine Strategies

Barry Diller Danny Sullivan
Photo Credit Jim Boykin

Keynote presentation at Search Engine Strategies New York with Danny Sullivan and Barry Diller of IAC. Diller’s company acquired Ask Jeeves in 2005, now rebranded as Ask.com.

Diller: I have always liked Ask.com. I just felt they needed to drop the Butler (drop baggage). The butler limited the opportunity for Ask.com as a mass market player in search. He does not intend to change the “Ask” brand.

If it’s like everyone else, it doesn’t have a reason for being. Like when he started Fox, Diller didn’t want to make another of the same big networks. He Wanted to make something different.

Ask is differentiated by the way it works from the other engines. Market share doesn’t matter, relevancy does. Diller invites people to try Ask.com and see for themselves.

Diller: “We lost a fat butler, we’re not going to gain a fat butterfly.”

On incentives for searching.
Danny: “You’re already doing that with iWon.”
Diller: You’ve got to be in it for the long haul. It’s not action-reaction advertising. In the end people will say, “There are things here that I like.” Diller reiterates that he is in it for the long haul and not looking for quick popularity. Ask.com will drive awareness in a variety of ways, but not be limited to advertising.

Diller: “If the product is good and worthy, somthing happens.”

Danny: Does Ask look at Microsoft as a 3rd place player worth going after?
Diller: The history of Ask is not a global search player. It’s roots are in natural language search. “We’re ready to compete.”

Danny: Does Ask need a mission statement?
Diller: “Be Evil” audience laughs. As a mantra, “Do no Evil is a bit pretentious and more appropriate for a non-business entity. One slogan does not make sense.

Danny: What’s going to happen with Ask and China?
Diller: We have R&D in China now and we’re working on a local search engine. Censorship in China has been “over-mediated”. If you’re going to function in another country, then you need to follow their rules.

Diller explains that he has several businesses operating in China. A company needs to understand what it’s like to operate in another country. If there are constraints that do not allow a company to operate as it should, then it shouldn’t be there.

Danny: Privacy has been an issue with search engines recently. The U.S. government has asked other search engines for data. How would Ask respond?
Diller: We (companies that collect data) have an absolute obligation to protect information on people. Privacy is absolute.

Danny: How do you manage so many companies that might compete?
Diller: We have been collecting vertical data for 10 years. When it can be used to improve user experience, we will use it. But we will not use it otherwise.

Danny: How does search measure up to your other initiatives?
Diller: What intrigues me about search is that it is interactive. Search is another language.

Diller had a relevation about what was possible with a screen and dove into it (Internet).

Danny: How does Ask fit in?
Diller: I instantly liked it. We first thought about whether search engines could damage other IAC businesses. Is there opportunity? We decided a search engine would be a good fit and purchased Ask shortly after.

Jim Lanzone, CEO of Ask comes up on stage to present some of the new features recently launched.

Objectives for the new version of Ask and dropping the butler:
Recent changes serve as a culmination of enhancement developments the Ask team has been working on and presented in an un-cluttered way.

Lanzone shows the toolbox on the right side of the Ask home page. Dictionary is the most popular type of search at Ask. Ask tools are editable.


New Maps Product – Has cool Ajax powered drag and move feature. Ask has built up driving directions and itinerary functionality. Calculates driving directions on the fly as you point to new destinations. The map overlay does not use satellite images, it uses aerial views with better resolution.
Directions for driving and also for walking are available. You can also “play” back your directions activity.

Diller: We have made major investment in Ask and we’re in it for the long term.

Danny: Do you think there are enough voices in search?
Diller: No

Diller emphasizes the long term and that making Ask a top tier player will not happen overnight. “If the idea is good, the world allows it to come into the DNA. It feels more natural than trying to hammer it in via advertising”, says Diller.

Danny: Other search engines are working on off-PC search. What does search convergence mean to Ask?
Diller: It doesn’t matter what the “screen” is. New technology/convergence is close, but not yet.


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