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Ask Laying off Workers, Search?



As we mentioned yesterday, Ask.com has announced layoffs. Today they’ve said they’ll be “downsizing” 40 people, or 8% of their workforce. Meanwhile, despite yesterday’s reports that they’ll keep their search engine and Teoma, today that looks to be in doubt.

New CEO Jim Safka announced today that the solid fourth-place search engine will be changing its focus to concentrate on its core user. And no, that’s not you, it’s not me, and it’s not The Lisa, no matter how much we want it to be. Safka says that Ask.com’s demographics skew heavily toward southern and mid-western women over 30. On that note, they will not be catering to the “digerati” anymore (and I think that’s where you and I fall).

Instead, Ask will now focus on, as the Wall Street Journal put it (via paidContent), the users “who use the site to ask questions about topics like entertainment and health. To do that, he says the company will launch new products and enhance its technology through efforts like pulling in more community-generated answers.”

In many ways, this raises more questions than it answers. Yesterday, sources told Reuters that Ask would definitely not abandon search. Today, the CEO seems to tell Reuters that they will, with the new model reflecting either Yahoo Answers or Mahalo. On topics like entertainment and health. Gag me. (Guess that means I’m part of the scorned digerati.)

Erstwhile CEO Jim Lanzone long contended that it wasn’t Ask’s intention to be #1 or even #2 in search. Maybe that’s part of the reason why he’s no longer their CEO, but it looks like they’re giving up the fight altogether now.

Ask 3D, if this is the last farewell, I still love you, despite the fact that I almost never used you.

  • http://www.hotproductsplus.com Mike Montague

    That is a sure-fire indication that their dumping their search engine and Teoma. I also think Jim Safka sounds really confused about how to manage the brand effectively. They just don’t seem to have a cohesive plan together.

  • http://www.bootstrapseo.com/ Diane Aull

    So, if you are (as I am) a member of the “digerati” *AND* a southern female over the age of 30, do you get to use ASK now or not?

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Diane—I think digerati status trumps demographics. So, no. You’re banned. Unless you want to ask it questions about “womanly things.”

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Diane you can use Ask, but only on alternate Tuesdays or the second Friday of any month following a month that begins with the letter “J” Confusing I know, but the rules can be found deep withing the help section.

    Kind of a sad day. I think many have been rooting for Ask.

  • http://www.bootstrapseo.com/ Diane Aull

    @Jordan So, celebrity gossip, fashion, recipes and “work-life balance” career tips = in. Looking up obscure baseball stats, seeking instructions for overclocking my CPU or product shopping for power tools = probably out. Unless the baseball stats are for the AAGPBL, maybe?

    @Steven I agree, sad day. Especially since it’s not Tuesday (or Friday) and anyway last month didn’t start with a “J”. *sigh*

  • http://www.whatimnot.com Piper

    This is no surprise. Between the low volume, the generally poor quality of their sponsored search (at least in my experience), and the fact that normal are barely aware of Ask’s existence, I’m amazed that they’ve lasted as long as they have.