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The Keys to AskCity

I couldn’t resist blogging a bit back on a vision I had for Ask Jeeves as the face of local search and then the subsequent launch of AskCity by Ask.com and parent company IAC. In the column, I take a deeper look in the form of a letter to IAC CEO Barry Diller. The full column’s in the extended entry and also, as always, at MediaPost. There, you can read some of the comments for it; one I’ll highlight in a separate post.

The column’s below; your feedback’s always welcome. The next two weeks, I’ll probably review the predictions for 2006 and then make some for 07. It’s nice to have a semblance of an editorial calendar. I just hope to never get to the point of an outlet like Entertainment Weekly where it seems every issue is a seasonal/annual issue (Fall Movies, Spring Movies, Winter Movies, Photos, Summer Music, Fall TV, Spring TV, Oscar Preview, Oscar Review, Oscar Predictions, Favorite Movies Directed by Anti-Semites, Movies with Goats, Movies Directed by Goats, Wayans Brother of the Year…)

The Keys to AskCity
By David Berkowitz

Dear Barry,

I know you might prefer to be called Mr. Diller, but since I reached
out to you through this column and you’ve taken my advice (a mere 20
months later), the first-name basis is appropriate. After you launched AskCity
this month, I started thinking about reconnecting. Before I go on,
though, let me say that you’ve done a great job with AskCity, creating
a local search site that plays to InterActiveCorp’s strengths. I can’t
wait to see what else you do with it, and I have some thoughts on that
topic to share with you.

Let’s reminisce for a bit. Back in April 2005, I reached out to you in the column “The Many Faces of Local,”
soon after the announcement that your IAC would acquire Ask.com. This
excerpt should jog your memory: “The word ‘local’ isn’t in IAC’s
mission statement, nor is any synonym, but given IAC’s expertise and
its dreams for Ask Jeeves, that should change immediately. Barry, are
you listening? Jeeves, the beloved Ask.com butler, could become the
face of local search…”

Okay, so you killed off Jeeves, much to my chagrin (I loved
the ol’ chap). While there is no longer a specific face for local
search, Ask is now bringing together the IAC resources with the
potential for the most comprehensive local experience that anyone can

The ease with which users can mark up maps, share listings,
save snapshots, and run various types of searches sets a new gold
standard for many of your competitors. Still, there are ways you can
use IAC’s resources to make it even better. I’ve included a handful of
suggestions below.

1) Win over the bloggers. Bloglines is one of the most widely
used and respected RSS feed readers, and by incorporating that into the
listings, you’ll score major points with the early adopter crowd (along
with the early adopter wannabes). For example, when I search for events
in my neighborhood (Manhattan’s Upper East Side), a Bloglines link
would let me subscribe to updates of all the exhibits on Museum Mile.
Of course, I’d be able to subscribe with any other feed reader, too,
but since it’s your service, you can promote Bloglines as the reader of
choice. I wouldn’t expect most of your users to opt for RSS delivery of
event or movie listings, but such a feature would underscore your
commitment to letting your visitors take control of your offerings.

2) Business is personal, too. Every time I visit
AskCity, I’m always tempted to try searching for people along with
businesses, but there’s no way to do it. I know, searching for people
is not your strong point. A search for my father’s name and his city in
Google brings up his full address, home phone number, and a link to a
map with satellite imagery so crisp, I can almost see him kicking back
in the hot tub. The same search in Ask.com brings up no such targeted
result–there’s just an ad for a public records database. While local
results are mostly about businesses, adding white pages listings will
bolster the utility.

3) Add home searching to your City. Domania, your real
estate site, doesn’t get as much buzz as some of your other properties
like Citysearch and Ticketmaster, so tying it into AskCity will both
add to the local services and give exposure to another one of your

4) Offer finger-clickin’-good food search. When I search for
Mexican restaurants in my neighborhood, I’d love to be able to search
by rating, or the number of ratings it has. Menupages.com offers this,
and the site has far fewer features than AskCity. You have Citysearch
ratings information in individual listings, so just add it to the
search options. That will help make my decision even easier when
deciding between Mary Ann’s and Mo’s Caribbean. You do a great job with
other search functionality, such as allowing me to refine my search by
neighborhood and cuisine, and also returning the same results for
“Mexican food” and “Mexican restaurants,” making it easier for users
regardless of their linguistic preferences.

5) Evite me over. When I decide on the tried-and-true Mary
Ann’s, perhaps I’m up for inviting friends to kick back with a few
margaritas. Why can’t I do this readily through links to Evite? It
can’t hurt as an option, and it will help establish the social
potential for Ask City listings.

This is just a start. There’s so much more you can do to help
grow AskCity into a vast metropolis. Adding more social and mobile
functionality will further its development.

Congrats on what you’ve done so far. Don’t let it be another 20 months before we reconnect. My best to Diane.

Your favorite Search Insider (okay, one of ‘em),


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Comments to: The Keys to AskCity
  • Avatar
    December 13, 2006

    Planypus (http://planyp.us) is a new social service for sharing plans with your friends (with dynamic discussions, voting, and a view of planning that says every participant also helps make the plans, so it’s not single-organizer based like evite).
    We have an easy link-based api for generating plans from an external source such as askcity, if only they would integrate with us. It seems over at Evite things seem to move so glacially I wouldn’t be surprised that it takes them half a year to realize the integration potential with askcity, and another half a year to implement.
    The info on integration is here http://planyp.us/welcome/promote
    We’re in beta, release new features and improvements almost weekly and a have a redesign coming soon.

  • Avatar
    December 13, 2006

    By the way we also have a bookmarklet tool that you could use on an askcity page in theory. We would welcome your feedback in improving it to work the way you would like (using it on an AskCity page to share something with your friends)


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