America Online will debut an improved audio/video search engine at Singingfish.com Wednesday, part of its strategy of building ad-supported standalone search destinations to attract non-AOL members.
It's the first upgrade to Singingfish.com since AOL acquired the multimedia search player in late 2003. Other pieces of the AOL strategy include a recent investment in and partnership with travel search player Kayak, along with the launch of its own shopping search engine InStore. Other areas the company plans to explore include real estate and automotive, according to AOL's Brian Hoyt.
Though Singingfish.com has long existed as a standalone site, the company had largely used it as a test site for new technology and a way to show potential new clients what it could offer. Now, AOL will develop Singingfish as a standalone destination, to take advantage of what, up until now, has been word-of-mouth-generated traffic.
"We've had a steady growing volume of queries. We went from just 1,000 a day to 700,000 a day," said Karen Howe, vice president and general manager of Singingfish. "As a specialty search engine, we're starting to crack that cocoon and emerge a bit further into more mainstream."
Howe says the company will do its first online ad campaign to attract consumers as part of the re-launch. Advertising, developed by agency BBDO Atmosphere, will appear on ARTISTdirect.com and AtomFilms.com, along with networks IndustryBrains, Google, Gorilla Nation and Advertising.com. One creative features a school of brightly colored fish swimming across the banner, telling users "It's Fishing Season. Search Millions of Free Audio and Video Streams. Fish It."
"It'll be interesting to see how that pulls for us," said Howe.
The new site includes features designed in response to user requests, Howe said. Users will be able to save and share search terms. They can also choose to search by family-friendly results, by media format, by duration, or by category. Singingfish.com will also feature an "I'm Bored" button, which takes users to quirky and entertaining video clips, and an "Explore" area, where people can see popular searches and staff favorites.
Singingfish gets its results by crawling the Web and indexes multimedia files in the Real, Windows Media, MP3, and Apple QuickTime formats. It categorizes and ranks each item by using metadata -- some of which is supplied with the content and some of which the company gets from third-party sources.
Singingfish also accepts paid inclusion feeds, which let advertisers pay a flat fee to be included in the Singingfish index. Its results are syndicated throughout the AOL network and to clients like the Windows Media Player, WindowsMedia.com, RealNetworks' RealOne Player, and the RealOne Guide.
Though Howe imagines advertising playing a much greater role at Singingfish, she says marketers first need to develop more audio and video content that can be indexed. Howe also acknowledges that Singingfish needs to build a bigger audience to pique advertisers' interest, something she believes will be helped along by the growth of broadband access.
"We're still in the early stages of this and it's just on the cusp of happening," said Howe. "There are going to be certain verticals that are more likely to jump into this than others, especially as advertisers get more concerned about their commercials getting skipped [on TV]."
Clarification: Because of a Singingfish error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Claria, BlogAds and WhenU as networks on which the company would run its campaign. ClickZ News regrets any confusion that may have resulted.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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