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Ask Jeeves Adds CitySearch Shortcuts

SAN JOSE, CA — Ask Jeeves said yesterday that it will add search shortcuts for local business information through a content-licensing deal with InterActive Corp.'s CitySearch. Terms were not disclosed.

Beginning next month, Ask Jeeves will tap CitySearch's database of localized content on everything from restaurants to bars to plumbers in order to return direct answers to searches. For example, a search for “plumber in San Francisco” would yield CitySearch listings that include business information and user ratings.

“When we looked at who has local data, they stood out for how rich the content is,” said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties at Ask Jeeves, Emeryville, CA. “That's important because it gives the user context.”

The CitySearch data adds to Ask Jeeves' Smart Search initiative, which already returns direct information to users for searches relating to weather, movies and other topics. Lanzone said the new Smart Searches through the CitySearch deal would help address the 10 percent of searches that Ask Jeeves finds are explicitly for local information or services.

“We don't look at local as a category,” he said. “We look at it as a subset of a lot of categories.”

Google and Yahoo have taken somewhat different approaches. Google is testing a local search engine, Google Local, which combines database information of business listings with Web search. Yahoo has added local business information to Yahoo Maps, in a feature called Smart View.

Ask Jeeves already has Smart Searches for local information such as weather, movies and, most recently, maps and driving directions. Lanzone said Ask Jeeves hopes to use Smart Searches not to generate more revenue but to encourage searchers to use its search sites more often. Since its acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings in May, Ask Jeeves has become the No. 6 most-visited Internet site, with 39.3 million visitors in May, according to comScore Media Metrix.

“It's a frequency driver,” Lanzone said. “We know people who use Smart Searches come back more.”

The local Smart Searches will roll out on Ask Jeeves' Ask.com site. The company plans then to add it to its other search properties, which include iWon, My Way and My Search.

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