Update: Ask will continue with their PPC product, they have no desire to discontinue it. Barry talked to Ask and here is there offical response from Patrick Crisp:
Like we did on Ask.com to improve the search experience, we are reducing the number of ads above our organic search results on the Ask.co.uk site. On Ask.co.uk, we are eliminating our Branded Response and the Answer Link products, showing only PPC listings as we do on Ask.com. Similar moves in the U.S. have resulted in an all-time high retention rate. As it does today, Ask.co.uk will continue to show Google Listings.
Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings PPC product is going very well in the U.S., and we are focused on continuing to grow AJSL here before we expand internationally. While we believe the reduction in ad products will be great for our users, it has impacted our direct sales force only in the United Kingdom. We believe this will make Ask.co.uk an even stronger platform for advertisers to reach customers.
I do have to admit this is a pretty strange rumor, being that Ask just recently launched their PPC product back in August. Threadwatch reports a rumor/speculation from a source that says that Ask may discontinue there PPC program and has already started letting their sales team go.
So why would Ask want to discontinue there PPC program? One answer comes to mind, they are not discontinuing it in the US, but only in the UK. The other thought is that advertisers are not willing to pay a premium to be listed on Ask. Buying direct isn't all that it's crack up to be for advertisers possibly. I admit I have enjoyed testing out the program from the beginning but slowly got discouraged as CPC rates rose from affordable levels to those consistent with hyper competitive keywords in Google Adwords. I have scaled back my own campaign as it was no longer a good deal. Conversions were near or at levels from what I saw with Adwords. So why pay more when I could get an all in one solution buy using Adwords?
Then again, this is just pure speculation with no base for fact. It could just be a really misinformed source that let the news slip or the real deal? Barry reported back in August about the Ask Sponsered Listing program, which said that Ask was dropping some of their PPC ads because, "IAC understood organic results was the way to go, they have studies that show more users come back when they use the ask organic results. And they know the PPC ads were keeping users away." However, as "Google became a larger part of Ask's business, they had to keep adding more ppc ads." So whats a butler to do?