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New Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings Program Lets More Advertisers Buy Direct

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After weeks of rumors, Ask Jeeves unveiled a new automated paid listings service today -- Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings -- that will allow anyone to purchase ads directly on the Ask Jeeves network rather than having to buy placement via Google or work through an Ask Jeeves account rep.

The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members goes into more depth on how Ask Jeeves may cope with the "hassle factor" of convincing advertisers they should go direct, how it may show more than three of its own ads, making use of the "standard" Googe format, issues with potential ad duplication and how Ask says it developed most of the technology internally, though it won't name the third party company also involved -- and isn't worried that Yahoo might seek a patent infringement claim on paid listings. Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Google is the primary way most advertisers currently appear at Ask Jeeves. Those buying ads on Google also automatically show up at Ask Jeeves and other Ask-owned properties through a partnership that began in September 2002, unless an advertiser specifically chooses to opt-out of the Google Network to run ads only on Google's own sites.

The Ask Jeeves-Google partnership isn't ending. Google's ads will continue to show up on Ask Jeeves. But now, any advertisers that wishes will easily be able to purchase placement directly through Ask Jeeves itself.

"The relationship with Google is a strong one, and the intention here is not to replace it," said Paul Gardi, executive vice president and general manager of the new IAC Advertising Solutions group within Ask Jeeves-parent company IAC. His group is running the new program. "The intention is to help advertisers who want a direct relationship with Ask Jeeves."

The move means that over time, many of Google's ads will be "backfill" to Ask Jeeves ads. That is, Ask Jeeves will first list its own ads, then show ads from Google if it doesn't have enough ads of its own or when Google ads would generate more revenue for Ask Jeeves.

Google ads have already been backfill to a minor degree because of the preexisting Ask Jeeves Premier Listings program. Through that program, advertisers would negotiate directly with Ask Jeeves to keyword-target their ads on a cost-per-click basis.

Because the program involved ad reps, it was only really available to high-end advertisers making a significant spend. In the new program, any advertiser can buy direct through Ask Jeeves.

"We've not had the ability to service the larger number of advertisers that want to be on Ask Jeeves. With the new product, it's automated and allows a large number of advertisers to purchase and manage the advertising directly on our network," said Gardi.

Will They Buy Direct?

Now that Ask has built it, will the advertisers come? Those who were in the existing premier listings program almost certainly will and in fact have now been transitioned into the new one, which officially replaces Premier Listings. As for others, time will tell once the program opens on Aug. 15 to anyone wishing to reach the Ask Jeeves network in the US. Within the next 12 months, it will also come to Ask UK.

Why would people buy direct? Most likely because they'll want to pay a premium to be ranked well at Ask Jeeves. A premium? Yes, because Ask will be showing more than one ad from its own program only when it determines will will earn more from those than by carrying the Google ones. The easiest way for most advertisers to influence that will be to pay more than they'd pay through Google.

Why wouldn't people buy direct? The hassle factor. Creating and managing search ads is a complex task. Automation makes things easier, but it's still a case of diminishing returns when deciding how many program advertisers will explore.

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