IAC and subsidiary Black Web Enterprises today launched the first-ever search engine catering specifically to African American interests, RushmoreDrive.com.
BWE was formed in April last year when then-head of IAC human resources Johnny Taylor came to CEO Barry Diller with the idea of launching a Web business aimed at the black community. "We weren't sure what it was going to be," said Taylor. "A search engine was the farthest thing from our minds."
Taylor and BWE arrived at the idea of a black-oriented search engine after conducting focus groups with African-Americans across the country. "We discovered that the number one activity blacks did online was search for information, while numbers two and three were searching for jobs or searching for and consuming news," said Taylor. "So we decided to create a product that was first a search engine that delivers more relevant results [for the black community], but could also be a resource for jobs and news."
The site works on a patented algorithm that determines which Web sites are most frequently visited by African Americans, then merges that data into a mainstream search crawl. The technology will also incorporate user data from its own user searches to refine its focus.
In addition to search, the site offers job listings and a news aggregator that also focus on black interests.
"Our research showed us that blacks were tired of going to Monster.com and getting lumped in with a thousand other applicants, where their chance of getting hired was slim to none," said Taylor. "Here you can identify up front employers who are interested in hiring qualified black people."
Advertising for now will take the form of sponsored links and banner ads, though not on the landing page. "We were careful to make a clean, uncluttered interface," said Taylor. The jobs pages will also offer opportunities for potential employers to buy advertisers.
The launch of the original site represents the continuation of a new business approach for IAC, which has built much of its empire by acquiring sites such as Ask.com and Travelocity.com. While Taylor couldn't confirm that IAC was making a conscious decision to launch more of its own properties from scratch, he said that Diller "jumped on the idea" of RushmoreDrive.com as an opportunity to build a new business.
IAC has launched a number of original sites in the past two years with varying success, including comedy site 23/6 and comparison-shopping site Pronto.com. The company has announced its intention to spin off a number of its largest businesses, including home shopping channel HSN and Ticketmaster.
Taylor noted that RushmoreDrive.com's patented algorithm could apply to much more than African-American interests, which makes it possible IAC could launch similar search sites for other ethnic and racial groups in the future. "It's not lost on us that we have a new type of search technology," he said, "but for now we are going to focus on making RushmoreDrive.com right first, then look at other opportunities later."
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014