IAC-owned Ask.com search engine, which since July has been trying to reinvent itself as a Q&A site, is cutting 130 jobs and closing down its offices in Edison, N.J. and Hangzhou, China, as part of the strategy shift. IAC (NSDQ: IACI) CEO Barry Diller has acknowledged publicly in recent months that Ask.com has in many ways been a disappointment for IAC, saying in July, for instance, that “we’ve learned that spending a lot of money on marketing search products doesn’t get you very far.”
In a note on the Ask.com blog, president Doug Leeds says the company will no longer be developing its own web search technology and will instead be relying on partners. From his comments:
We know that receiving answers to questions is why Ask.com users come to the site, and we are now serving them in everything we do. Unfortunately, this absolute focus means that we need to stop investing in things outside of providing users with the best answers, including making the huge capital investment required to support algorithmic web search development. This investment in independent web search is not required by our strategy, nor is it required in the marketplace. We have access to multiple third party structured and unstructured data feeds that, when integrated, can provide a web search experience on par with what we are able to produce internally, at much lower costs.
Ask.com already has a long-standing agreement with Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which powers the search ads on its site. The speculation is that it will now power results too. The ad deal is set to expire in 2012.
The 130 job cut figure was noted in a Bloomberg piece. We’re trying to determine what percentage of Ask.com’s total workforce this entails and will update when we hear back. This is the second set of job cuts at IAC this month. Last week, the company cut an unspecified number of jobs at Citysearch. IAC had 3,200 employees as of the beginning of the year.
Past (unsuccessful) attempts at turning around Ask.com have also come with layoffs. Two-and-a-half years ago, the company eliminated 40 positions, or about 8 percent of its workforce, as part of a move to focus the product on its core audience, rather than the demands of the “digerati.”