Lycos Launches Vertical Strategy With Discussion And People Search Products
Lycos U.S. recently launched a Discussion Search product that should be a hit and a People Search product that might charitably be called a sacrifice bunt.
The two new vertical search tools are the initial components of the company's personal connectivity strategy, which aims to help users search and find the individuals and topics that are significant and relevant to their lives.
The Lycos strategy is sound. The executives at Lycos U.S., seem to have read Peter Drucker's classic book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In Chapter 17, Drucker describes one entrepreneurial strategy as "Hit Them Where They Ain't."
It is based on the famous line from Wee Willie Keeler, one of the first players to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Keeler was just five-foot-four and 140 pounds, but, in 1897, he had an incredible batting average of .432. A reporter asked him, "Mr. Keeler, how can a man your size hit .432?" Keeler replied, "Simple. I keep my eyes clear and I hit ‘em where they ain't."
The metaphor seems apt. Although Lycos was one of the three leading search engines a decade ago, it is now a fraction of the size of Google and Yahoo. So, its new vertical search products are part of a strategy to "hit" these bigger competitors in vertical segments where they "ain't" dominant.
While this strategy is sound, Lycos has many fans worried about its execution.
The Lycos Discussion Search product (http://discussion.lycos.com) is a Texas league single - a hit that falls safely between approaching infielders and outfielders.
The new Lycos Discussion Search helps you locate what others are saying, writing and posting on the Web about topics of interest to you. This vertical search tool retrieves information from some of the Web's most popular public community boards and forums, collecting information in one place for easy use.
To test the Lycos Discussion Search beta, I typed in "sempo" - the acronym for the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization - and found 352 results. While I was already aware of several of the discussions about SEMPO on some of the forums, I was impressed to discover hundreds of other significant and relevant threads that I hadn't seen before. Needless to say, the new Lycos Discussion Search is a "bingle" in my book.
The Lycos People Search product (http://peoplesearch.lycos.com) is a drag bunt - it looks like the batter began to run to first base and left the bat behind to contact the ball.
Lycos People Search retrieves information about people you know, whether you've lost touch with them or just want to find out more about them. People Search aggregates information available from a variety of sources including the company's WhoWhere database for White Pages information, Intellius.com for background checks, Eliyon for professional profiles, Reunion.com for alumni directories, and Verizon SuperPages.com for Yellow Pages and business search.
Lauren Bigelow, Senior Director of Product Management at Lycos U.S., gave me a demo of the professional profile portion of Lycos People Search. Using my own name and company, I found my profile to be fairly accurate and surprisingly complete. While there were a few items that need to be clarified, Eliyon even offers the option of updating your profile.
Later, I tested the other features of Lycos People Search. I typed in my own name and address and couldn't find my White Pages listing, even though I have a listed number. The background check got my approximate age wrong, although I just had a birthday, and I didn't want to pay extra to see more. The alumni directory required me to register all over again. The Yellow Pages listing drew a blank. In other words, while professional search is worth using, the other features of Lycos People Search don't deliver as well on their promise.
To establish a solid user base for its Discussion and People Search products, Lycos will market heavily to its installed base of 37 million monthly users. The company's vertical strategy will also be supported by online advertising campaigns and "extensive" site integration later this year. However, reviews and word of mouth will also play key roles.
In the press release announcing Lycos People Search and Discussion Search, Mark Stoever, CEO of Lycos U.S., is quoted as saying, "The emerging personal connections and publishing space is poised for dramatic growth, and our new connectivity products position us to capitalize on the current environment."
But, that is like saying, "We're coming to bat in the late innings of a close game." Yes, Lycos is in the right place at the right time, but it still needs to "hit them where they ain't" in order to win.
If the company's Discussion Search product is a hit and its People Search product is a sacrifice bunt, then let's hope the next "in a series of Lycos connectivity products" is at least a banjo hit or seeing-eye single that can help users "find people and share their passions."
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About the Author:
Greg Jarboe is the co-founder and CEO of SEO-PR, which provides search engine optimization and public relations services to Southwest Airlines, Verizon SuperPages.com, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), and a growing list of other organizations. Jarboe is also the editor of SEO-PR’s News Blog.
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