Answers.com Gears Up for the School Year

Reference search service Answers.com has developed a “Teacher’s Toolkit” to lure an audience of educators and their students to the ad-supported resource. The new site feature will launch with a multi-channel back-to-school campaign.

Answers.com’s value proposition to teachers is that content on the reference search service is vetted by an editorial department that compiles entries for over a million topics. The controlled search results assure educators that students won’t be sent to inappropriate or unrelated sites across the Web.

The ad-supported platform predominantly serves ads from Google’s AdWords program, with additional placements in the form of sponsorship from AdBright. The company partnered with AdBright for sponsorships after advertisers made repeated requests to sponsor one of the 18 categories on the site.

“For the near future, we’re going to be working with a number of different partners to optimize revenues, but keeping in mind the user experience is important to us,” Answers.com director of marketing, Jay Bailey, told ClickZ news. “We’re not willing to take the aggressive approach of serving flashing banner ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, and no intrusive ads.”

Audience-building efforts like the “Teacher’s Toolkit” are critical to Answers.com, which recently abandoned its subscription model to court advertisers.

“This is sort of a new era where ad-supported free search and reference products are much more acceptable than they were in the past,” said Bailey. “It’s no longer taboo in the educational sector, and we’re glad to offer a free product on that basis.”

An online back-to-school campaign will likely include banner ads. The actual units and media plans are not yet completed, the company said, but the campaign is expected to launch within the week. The creative is being produced by MGM Gold Communications in New York. EarthQuake Media, also in New York, will handle the media buy for online ads as well as offline efforts. The company will experiment with behaviorally targeted advertising but wouldn’t give specifics about the audience segments it’s trying to reach.

Offline marketing will include the distribution of posters and resource displays in elementary through high school classrooms; sponsorship and exhibition at education conferences; and advertising on college campuses and in student newspapers.

Originally founded as GuruNet, the company’s previous product was available by paid subscription only. After educators were unable to sign up for the paid service, the company launched the ad-supported Answers.com in January.

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