Ask.com is retooling its business strategy to be a destination that helps users find reference information, such as online dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias and area codes, as well as answers to health and entertainment questions.
Responding to reports that portrayed the company's goal as a move to become a search engine for women, Ask.com spokesman Nicholas Graham told eWEEK March 6 the "idea that we're going to become a women's site is just plain wrong."
"We're going to the people who use us the most for certain kinds of things in a certain kind of search pattern and we've decided, 'Let's embrace them and build around them,'" Graham said.
His comments came two days after the company told news outlets that it would lay off 40 people from various parts of its business, and not target search for the general masses the way Google, Yahoo and Microsoft do. The strategy update also comes after the company denied it was going to let Google run its search engine business.
After reading reports from mainstream media, several bloggers, including Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, saw the move as a capitulation by Ask.com, an admittance that it could not compete with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in top-line search.
Graham stopped short of saying that, but noted that Ask.com "can't be all things to all people. That's not going to work. We have to focus and build from a position of strength and our strength is delivering good results to people who come to us seeking answers."
He also suggested that some media outlets concentrated too heavily on the fact that Ask.com said it will tailor its search to be more friendly to its base, which is 60 percent women. He said new CEO Jim Safka made the decision after joining the company in mid-January and finding that a sizeable number of its core search base were women.