Executive Roundtable

Aug 4, 2004 - 1:41 pm 0 by

Danny said these panelists are all very brave since he just gave them the questions 10 minutes ago.


Jerry Campbell from AOL said that we are all trying to solve the same problems, but they have different ways of solving these problems. AOL search fits within its subscription base via Google results (the web search) and, on top of that, AOL takes their content (Time Warner) to bring out the search. If you search on pumpkin recipe you will get recipes pulled from Time Warner's food channel. AOL delivers a great "content experience."

Jeff Weiner from Yahoo! said Yahoo! wants to understand the intent of each user when searching. Search is to provide the means to the end, but they want to also provide the "end." They feel the most important thing is personalization. They also have a huge register base. They now own their own proprietary search technology which gives them a lot of flexibility. They are also able to integrate their content from their partners. He began to give a live demo from Yahoo.com. His first search was "san jose traffic", "san jose airport", "american 123", "new york city weather", "new york hotels". These are examples of how Yahoo uses content within the search. A hidden shortcut is "shopping!", if you add an ! after the name of the Yahoo section, you will be taken to that property. So we went over to the shopping section of Yahoo and you type in "camera." Yesterday Yahoo! announced Yahoo! Local at http://local.yahoo.com/. Search for "restaurants" and you can then narrow it down from there. I did this last night, but I used SmartView - which is neat. He then moved over to SmartView.

Paul Gardi from Ask Jeeves decided to use his presentation, Danny (i think) asked them not to. Ask says "one size" does not fit all. They have 8 brands, each brand provides a different experience. He started talking about how the industry is growing... He believes we are just at the beginning of understanding searchers. In one year they jumped from the 32nd ranked property to the 7th. They have a 25% domestic reach compared to 10% last year. In the future they will continue to innovate. Improve relevancy, leverage the Teoma technology, further differentiate Ask's distinct search experience, and expand local strategy. He then showed a demo on typing in "weather in san jose" and it shows you the weather right there, with more options, right in the search - he said we should try it on our phones now.

Christopher Payne from MSN Search, he said he is the new kids on the block. He feels the end user is going to win in the coming years. Some of you know my thoughts on this, back to coverage... Microsoft is undergoing a transition, they have been in the search space since 1998. They outsourced the technology until now, and now they are investing in building their own technology. In the next 12 months they hope to release these technologies. They will giving you the ability to not only search the Web but also their desktop (email, files, etc.). He feels this desktop search will be the major area of search in the next few years. They announced changes to their live site in July, they made decreased the weight of the pages (much faster now), they pulled the ads and labeled them more clearly, eliminated their paid inclusion (because customers want separation between paid and natural). They just announced their recent "newsbot" at sandbox.msn.com in the US. It is based on their search technology, its MSN's first personalization example. "Implicit personalization", they look at what your reading and then serve up more of that type of news, this will be transparent to you. This "implicit personalization" will migrate over to Web search. The last thing he would like to talk about is the tech preview, he said its the beginning. Its not great, its there to provide feedback in order to develop a road map to build a better search provided by MSN.

Google is not here, because of the IPO, I am sure they will be here next time. Danny will talk for Google (people laughed).

Questions Now: Question: How do you bring in the searcher from other properties? Answers: MSN said by providing a better technology, people will switch. AOL said by providing the most relevant result right away, by providing an emotional experience that 'wows' people, sample people and get it right each and every time. Search evolved from providing results to helping navigate the content on the Web. Yahoo said a way to provide search always, maybe a toolbar. How do you get them to download it? They provide an anti-spy bot in their toolbar. Search is completely stateless, we don't know them, no relation, etc. He said as we get to know the user better, we can get them to stay. Ask said we look at the world that every person in this room is unique. He asked how many people in the room ate an egg in the last month? Then said he bets some of you had it scrambled, some had it easy over, etc. You need to customize it for each users needs. Not a "one-size fits all."

Question: What is the next big vertical for your engines? Answers: AOL said they break it down into revenue and user experience. People looking for values with product, looking to make a transaction. Value added content will be a focus for improving your vertical experience. Yahoo said where is user demand, he said local is about 20% of all queries. How can they differentiate this content and then value creation (monetize and product quality). Going forward you can start to see travel, music (lyrics, downloads), and careers. Ask said its based on the search, local is huge (he said about 10% on his site). See more of reviews, opinions, local markets, and more. Its about combining structured and unstructured data. Also desktop search. MSN's next vertical is search :). News, desktop search are other verticals.

Question: Do you view SEMs as the enemy or what? Answers: Ask said they see SEMs as a very valuable aspect of their Web search experience. He likes the fact that people optimize, not spam, but optimize - as long as they are doing it for the right reasons. Yahoo said that bad irrelevant results are the enemy not SEMs. AOL said advertising equals content. SEMs are the best thing that happened to the industry. MSN thinks our interests should be aligned in the long run. If we degrade results with spam, then it hurts our industry and our assets.

Question: What is your best search feature is? Answer: AOL said that the best feature that people don't know that AOL has is search (people laughed). His favorite feature is that everything is locked inside the AOL client. ASK said that its not a feature, people don't look for features. He said its the unfeature, "smart search" - give them the result right away. Yahoo said he has a shortcuts page, and brought it up. They try making it easier for people to find these features. His favorite features include; he searched on "Florence" and he showed off the "also try" refine your search option. He loves the anti-spy feature as well. MSN said his feature is "lookout" which helps you search your outlook email. It will change the way you use email.

Question: What will continue to grow search revenue? Answers: MSN said the number one thing they can do is increase the supply, get more people to search. Yahoo said the same thing. ASK said people are seeing a complete shift in the advertising landscape, we are getting better at measuring that. As we do that more, its becoming a better experience and more and more people will enter. Advertising is a $300 billion industry, and search is a tiny fraction of that. AOL, traffic needs to increase and he agrees with the others. He also adds that we have one answer (web search), how do we give more answers in other ways?

Question: Google is going public, what impact will Google going public have on you? Answers: MSN said they don't think about it much. He said it won't affect the industry to much. ASK said they are excited about it because it brings the industry more credibility. Yahoo! wishes them well and welcomes to the club. AOL said it brings a focus to the industry, AOL likes seeing good friends succeed.

Question: What surprises you the most about searchers? Answers: MSN said the search diversity about what people are looking for. There is so much more potential to answer a searchers questions better. ASK said searchers are unique, the same keyword search done by person A can have a different meaning if searched for by person B. Yahoo said the number of people who use the search box instead of typing in the company name into the browser URL box. I said before, I was at a client and he wanted to go to the Google homepage, so he searched on "google.com" at Google.com. :) AOL said emotion is what they look at.

Question: If you had to describe your search engine as a person, how would you do it? AOL is Cal Ripkin, AOL always shows up and always delivers. Yahoo, did you see the movie "Good Will Hunting" and he said we are incredibly smart. ASK said we are at your service to meet your needs, he said we are "data" from star trek, we know everything you might need. MSN said instead of coming up a name, he said he will describe the attribute; passion and innovation.

Forum coverage at Search Engine Watch.


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