In a move to significantly expand the reach of its network, Ask.com has just acquired the Lexico Publishing Group, owners of dictionary.com, thesaurus.com and reference.com
According to internet research company comScore, 500 million searches every month are conducted for dictionary, thesaurus and general references. Lexico Publishing’s sites are not only the top domains in the space, but also carry a significant share of the traffic – approx 15.6 million visitors in Mar 08.
Ask.com execs believe the acquisition will increase its user numbers by about 11% to 145 million users every month, pushing above the likes of Apple and Facebook.
Jim Safka, Chief Exec of Ask.com reports “More than 30 per cent of all searches conducted on Ask.com are in the reference category. ‘Dictionary’ was the second-most searched term on Ask.com in 2007″.
While there seems to a be a logical fit in terms of search behavior, industry analysts aren’t convinced the move will address the company’s real issues. Douglas McIntyre from the Wall Street Journal had this to say about the acquisition:
“The purchase of Lexico is based on deeply flawed thinking. Consumers who use an online dictionary are not likely to use the search engine which is owned by the same company, especially if that search engine is Ask.com. Ask has already lost the search race because it is a weak product. People using the internet can click from Dictionary.com to their favorite search engine, probably Google, in one click which takes one second.
Buying a potential audience for an internet property that very few people use will not change consumer habits and that makes the investment a waste.”
Perhaps the move isn’t about bolstering Ask.com’s search engine success, and more a key traffic driver. The important next step for Ask is – how do they effectively monetize the user base?