Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Interview with Miguel Acosta, Ask Jeeve's Director of European Business Development: Opening alternative doors in Spain and Europe
There has been plenty of talk about Ask Jeeves’ plans and progress in the U.S., but Ask Jeeves is also keeping plenty of heads turning in the European market. Spain is a recent endeavor with plenty of action to this day to keep the interested on the ball. Recently, MSE covered Ask Jeeves’ strategic agreements with reputable Spanish companies, as well as their upcoming marketing push for the Spanish market in September. Following the search engine’s evolution, as well as the recent IAC acquisition, the famous butler is certainly dressed to impress and shaped up for his imminent adventures. MSE thought it was about time to hear about the past, present and future directly from the source. With a kindly granted interview with Miguel Acosta, Director of European Business Development for Ask Jeeves, MSE zooms in on the details, so to speak and brings you a bit more insight, tracing Ask Jeeves’s footsteps, chiefly through Spain and but also onto the broader, European landscape. Read on and craft your conclusions (there is plenty to think about):
MSE: In your opinion, which search engines will pose direct competition to Ask Jeeves in the beginning? And if you think that will change with time, which will be the competition further down the line?
Miguel Acosta: Globally, today there are four Search engines with their own technology: Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves. Currently, these are our competitors. Although that new search engines might appear within certain niches, we believe that mid-term, the competition will continue to be the same players.
MSE: If you (Ask Jeeves España) plan on competing with Google who enjoys over 90% searches in Spain, what strategy does Ask Jeeves plan to adopt in order to be able to compete with the Spanish market leader? Will we be seeing something new and different?
MA: In AJ we have our own, different technology against the backdrop of our competition. Consequently, on many occasions our search results are going to vary from the other search engines (and equally relevant), which will increase the wide range of search possibilities for the users.
Additionally, we are starting of with three functionalities unlike the competition’s that we think are relevant to the user:
-myAskJeeves (to save search results),
-related searches (to help users sharpen their searches—found on the right, in the results page)
-binoculars (help zoom in on screenshots on the results page, without having to abandon the search results).
MSE: If on the contrary, Ask Jeeves does not plan on competing with Google, but rather on complementing Google and laying out an alternative for information search, as you stated in your interview with Libertad Digital, how does Ask Jeeves plan to achieve this?
MA: When we talk about competing with Google, what we are referring to is the idea of having the user search in more than one search engine. If we take a closer look at the English speaking market (U.S. and U.K.), we find that these users use between three and four different search engines every month. We think that the Spanish internet user will have the same tendency and here is where we see our competitive advantage.
MSE: Your agreement with TPI to add their Yellow Pages to the search engine gives reason to think that you will be putting an important emphasis on local search also in Spain. Are there more plans that point in that direction? Perhaps with time we’ll see something similar to Ask Jeeves Local Search?
MA: The challenge of all search engines is to try to be focused on the user demand. In this context, there are many innovations in Ask Jeeves in the United States and we should “import” to Spain those functionalities that we think are most relevant. In this context, it’s feasible that we will develop our local channel if we see interest on the users’ side.
MSE: What do you think about the agreement that TPI signed with MSN, days before they signed another one with Ask Jeeves? And in relation to Ask Jeeves, what do you think about TPI’s plans to launch a new search engine, Noxtrum? Where does the agreement to use their Yellow Pages fit in, if TPI will soon be another member of the competition?
MA: Our agreement with TPI is based on the idea of offering additional content to users (in this case, Yellow Pages searches). This should be our focus, regardless of TPI’s plans. In addition, if we keep in mind that we think the user’s [Spanish] behavior will migrate to using several different search engines per month, we could situate ourselves on a stage where Noxtrum will compliment our own search engine.
MSE: Will we see more strategic agreements between Ask Jeeves Spain and other companies, such as the ones you have now with Vocento, Softonic, TPI and El Corte Ingles?
MA: Starting now we will see distribution agreements through which other web sites will use our search engine.
MSE: In the U.S., Ask Jeeves offers a complete and impressive set of search tools (Smart Search), are there intentions for the same in Spain?
MA: Yes, but always keeping in mind the relevance of these to the Spanish user.
MSE: In relation to other search engines, why is Ask Jeeves so late entering into Europe?
MA: Ask Jeeves has been in the UK for 5 years. The decision to enter the continental Europe is based on the confidence we now have in our technology (we have spent months adapting it to the diverse markets).
MSE: What plans do you have for the rest of Europe? Any country that will surprise us?
MA: I don’t think there are surprises…we will go to the expected markets: Germany, France, Holland and Italia (in alphabetical order).
MSE: After buying Excite Italia from Tiscali, what are Ask Jeeves’ plans for Excite and how will those integrate into Ask Jeeves upcoming European expansion?
MA: Our focus, as a company, is search. All of our actions will be aimed in that direction.
MSE: There’s a lot of talk about Barry Dillers’ comments on not renewing the AdWords contract between Ask Jeeves and Google in 2007 and moving towards Ask Jeeves’ own PPC system. En other interviews you said that Ask Jeeves Spain will use Adwords. Will this decision now change?
MA: At the present time, we will use Google’s sponsored results.
MSE: What impact is the IAC acquisition having on Ask Jeeves?
MA: The IAC acquisition was confirmed on July 19th, for that reason it’s still too early to analyze the impact; although we are very excited about the new project.
MSE: And now, what everyone is dying to know, but is afraid to ask:
How is the butler’s diet? Looks like he’s lost some weight. Is he getting in shape for his upcoming adventures in Europe?
MA: The butler’s diet has been a success! Not only that, but now we have him parachuting and diving (television ad campaign in the U.K.)…Decidedly, the butler has rejuvenated.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s time to be on the lookout for Ask Jeeves’ European endeavors. But you certainly won’t need your binoculars (not in this case, anyway); Ask Jeeves, along with its butler are intent on making a colorful entrance you’re unlikely to miss.