Ask City Launches Amid High Expectations

Barry Diller is putting a lot of pressure on Ask. He keeps talking about Ask’s role in IAC’s overall operation and local in particular. When he acquired Ask for almost $2 billion Diller immediately touted Ask’s ability to knit together his disparate online empire into a more coherent whole. He also started talking about how IAC would own local, with several local brands.

Now with the introduction of Ask City, which replaces Ask Local, the search engine has taken a bolder step to create a compelling local product.

Danny Sullivan and I got a demo last week, which was impressive. At the level of functionality and usability the new Ask City is a dramatic improvement over the former Ask Local. It brings more horsepower but also some greater complexity for users. Ask Local was a very basic presentation of Citysearch data beside an associated map – simple and potentially effective for a business name lookup but not as helpful for a category search.

The new Ask City combines data and content from a range of IAC sites and third-party sources, including Citysearch, Ticketmaster, Evite, Trip Advisor, Yelp, InsiderPages, Judysbook and a number of other sites. It’s broadly organized into four content areas: business listings (i.e., yellow pages), events, movies and maps & directions.

While there a couple of novel features, mostly having to do with mapping, it’s the packaging of the features and content into a holistic proposition that makes this a very nice offering. Despite a number of flaws it deserves to be considered in the top tier of local search sites out of the gate.

There are many things to like about the new Ask City and a number of problems or flaws. I go into those in more detail in a longer post on my blog.

According to comScore data, Ask currently owns just under 3% of local search vs. 5.8% for Ask’s overall search market share in October. The new Ask City, by itself, is unlikely to boost Ask’s general search market share. But in combination with other innovations it may help Ask gain some share over the long term. (The local search market is much less established than general search and more competitive.)

One of the interesting questions here is: what will be the relationship between Ask City and Citysearch going forward? It may be that, like cars from the same maker for different market segments, they won’t bump into each other. But they certainly could be competitive; consumers are unlikely to use both sites.

There’s no advertising on the site now but that will come in the not-too-distant future.

Related Topics: Ask: City | Channel: Local | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Susan Kuchinskas

    I agree with you, Greg, both on the power of this city search and the complexity. It certainly looks useful, but I wonder how many non-power users (all the people who don’t get the reviewer’s guide) will take the time to discover all those features.

    Congrats on the launch of the blog, all of you!

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