The search portals get a lot of traffic, but numbers are hard to hang onto in an increasingly crowded space. While most are on the Media Metrix Top 50 list, there’s a lot of competition for traffic. More than ever, new search engines have to be creative in differentiating themselves.
One of the first to pull away from the pack was Ask Jeeves in 1997; a search engine that answers your questions by directing you to a page with the answer. Also launched in 1997, GoTo sells top search engine listings. You can pay to be found higher in the search results (among non-paid listings). Google is a little different because it makes use of link popularity to rank web sites, which can be a good filter on general searches. In 1999, iWon started something very unique: It gives away monthly prizes (as advertised on TV).
Now Fact City has a new spin: A fact-finding engine that gives facts on demand when used on search engine portals or other high-profile properties like sports and entertainment sites. It’s a whole new dimension of search availability. Not a destination site, but rather, it’s a service integrated into the existing search engines and portals to enhance the user experience.
This fact-finding engine responds to questions with actual facts and statistics, not hyperlinks. This new tool can deliver relevant answers, which is fantastic because data can be imported from remote offline databases. However, as a product or service search, it may become difficult to distinguish the corporate sponsors pushing their goods from non-biased consumer search data.
As with most new online products and services, there are always pros and cons. In the case of Fact City, the pros far outweigh any cons. Fact City is a category-defining solution for retrieving facts and statistics. If you want to know how many miles border the country of Brazil, you’ll find there are 7,419 miles, and you’ll be given a link to the source demographics.
When it comes to fact finding, if you want to know Sammy Sosa’s and Mark McGwire’s home runs, doubles, and walks in 1997, 1998, 1999, you’ll get data distribution tables with accurate and complete numbers and dates. Portals using Fact City technology can import offline data to create niche engines that deliver facts.
The fact that searches will come from offline databases is a quantum leap for Internet users. The use of public domain sources, syndicated content, and corporate and commercial databases provide a distribution system to deliver facts directly to the portal/search engine sites. Unique fact-retrieval technology that extracts the right fact from a reliable data source is a very powerful tool. Interesting and addictive content will drive more traffic to the portals and their affiliates.
Search engines using popularity and link ranking will continue to remain very useful to the Internet community interested in non-factual data. For instance, if you’re interested in finding an online source for petroleum hydraulic pumps or in locating scanner software, destination hotels, travel tickets, or an online bank, your best bet is to use your favorite search engine.
Fact City claims to be the only fact-finding engine for Internet portals, search engines and vertical market web sites. It has announced data distribution agreements with TV Guide Online, Billboard Online, Muze, and IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
This new, fact-finding engine is the first to align itself with vertical marketing sites in sports and entertainment. Plans this summer call for continued integration into portals and major engines. For an example of Fact City’s sports niche, go to ESPN’s major league baseball Fact City link. Check it out! You can type a search for simple facts like “John Rocker ERA 1998,” or perform more sophisticated searches such as “Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, home runs, doubles, walks, 1997, 1998, 1999.”
What are the business opportunities for Fact City in raising new revenue? Portals and search engines depend on page views for advertising dollars. Fact City delivers interesting and addictive content to their affiliates’ sites. The portals can display more web pages and earn more revenue at no cost. Fact City gets a percentage of the extra revenue.
There is significant value for data partners. Fact City provides exposure to millions of potential customers. Its link (when added to portals) will drive more traffic to partner or e-commerce sites. It’s quite possibly going to be more cost effective than banner ads or purchased keywords.
Fact City makes each separate, static data set more valuable by turning it into an “object” that knows how to respond to a query in plain English. The company calls this concept a searchable data object, or SDO. Fact City wraps each data set with a “bow” of customized meta data – or data that acts as a set of instructions or definitions on how each data set should be queried. Data set = instructions = SDO.
Fact City’s dozens of content engineers and data specialists hammer away at each different data set (sports, entertainment, demographics), simulating the kinds of questions, topics, key words, and grammar a web surfer might use to request facts. This extensive testing is then bundled to make a unique “bow” of instructions to go along with each data bucket.
Since each database needs to be queried differently, meta data enable Fact City to execute simultaneous, on-the-fly, customized searches on a limited list of prefabricated questions. What’s the difference? You’ve got 20,000 questions. Fact City’s got 20,000 answers.
This new technology gives portals and specialty niche sites the ability to attract more traffic by providing their audiences with more interesting content on demand, as requested by users. Users at ESPN will no doubt be interested in acquiring stats and information about sports players, teams, past games and records, etc. In so doing, they generate more page views; this translates into more advertising revenue for the site.
Look for much more about Fact City in the future. It’s a great revenue model, and it can be applied to almost any site that can be enhanced by data such as movies, music, TV shows, world facts and more.