Former Engage Australasia Head Surfaces At AltaVista

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] Former managing director of online marketing solutions provider Engage Australasia will head the Australian operations of international search engine AltaVista, in a new twist on her experience launching global brands in the local market.

Bohse was part of the original Engage team when the company launched locally in April to expand the reach of its online advertising technology. At AltaVista, she will be responsible for spearheading the growth of the local incarnation of the service, altavista.com.au, which launched in October.

“Mel’s enviable track record makes her a natural choice to spearhead our efforts in this market,” said AltaVista international business development director Martin Keogh of the appointment.

In making the move, Bohse will be keeping close ties to Engage parent company CMGI, which also has a stake in AltaVista. She was actually approached by CMGI to consider launching AltaVista locally before Engage’s recent acquisition of Space Media. “It was a question of which opportunity I wanted,” said Bohse. “I thought it would be personally more challenging to create an organization locally and take it to market, than to keep the one going and working to keep on growing it. I really enjoy the startup side, and that was what I wanted to be involved with.”

Bohse also said that part of the appeal of working within AltaVista was its ‘big brand’ and the challenge of working with what will essentially be a local startup. Bohse has so far expanded her local team with the addition of sales manager Jason Smadden, and the two will be responsible for building traffic to the site and showing Internet users how to make the most of search, through roadshows, exhibition and search clinics.

“We recently held a search clinic for Victorian IT teachers, and they have come back to us wanting to have search clinics for the various schools they teach at,” said Bohse.

While Bohse and Smadden build the traffic and value of AltaVista Australia, global sales partner DoubleClick will be responsible for selling advertising and sponsorships on the site.

With her new position, Bohse plans to take AltaVista through regular updates to keep it fresh and appealing to users and advertisers. The site has already been updated since its launch, and will go through more changes in February ahead of a major update in April or May. A New Zeland site is also scheduled for launch in February.

With these updates to its interface, Bohse said AltaVista will be making a global return to its core strength, search. AltaVista’s global index has 350 million pages, while the Australian site has an index of 7.5 million pages from Australian Web sites.

As part of this focus, extra features such as shopping are being eliminated from the U.S. site, and have been deliberately omitted from the local version. “With this focus on search too, we are looking at relationships with sites to have co-branded search facilities on their sites,” said Bohse.

As well as the search capabilities of its own site, AltaVista will be concentrating more on developing and licensing its search engine software to Web sites such as portals and e-commerce sites to drive their own search facilities. A local team will tackle this revenue area, however the team is yet to be assembled.

All of these plans will lead up to an IPO, which Bohse expected in ‘a few quarters’ time. “To be ready to list, though, there are three things we want to have in place. We want to have a CEO in place, we want to be profitable and we want the NASDAQ to be more settled,” she said.

Alicia Camphuisen is a writer at australia.internet.com.

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