Singingfish: Flash Searches—for a Fee

The company's multimedia search engine is about to leap barriers to Macromedia's animation format; Web site operators will have to pay to play, at least for now.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Singingfish Inc. on Wednesday announced plans to add Macromedia Flash into its multimedia search engine—but to be included, site operators will have to pay.

The new offering, announced at the Search Engines Strategies Conference & Expo 2003 here, is part of the Seattle companys paid inclusion program. That program allows Web site operators to submit audio and visual files to be included in the search engine for a fee, typically based on user clicks.

Singingfishs move into Flash is a response to the difficulty the industry faces in including Flash files in Web searches. Flash, unlike a text HTML page, lacks descriptive information about its content, said Eric Rehm, Singingfishs chief technology officer. While it is technologically possible to use methods such as crawling to retrieve Flash files in searches, the results often dont provide relevant information on the content, he said.

"This will be a very good index, and well re-evaluate whether to crawl later," he said.

The service is aimed at allowing sites and advertisers to point Web users directly to such Flash files as an online game or a sales presentation, Rehm said. The sites would provide a range of descriptive information about the files, which would allow Singingfish to accurately index them.

Despite Singingfishs move, the verdict is still out on whether searching for Flash will catch on.

"Industrywide, nothing is happening to solve the (Flash search) problem without workarounds," said Gregory Markel, founder and president of Infuse Creative, a Los Angeles search engine-marketing company focused on entertainment clients.

Meanwhile, sites such as entertainment and gaming sites that would like to use Flash more extensively are faced with a conundrum that often holds them back, said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Jupiter Research, in New York. If they use too much Flash, it could hurt their ability to be indexed and to rank highly on popular search engines.

"Theres clearly a market there (for Singingfish), but the question is how big of a market," Elliott said.

Singingfish expects the Flash capability to be available by the end of the year. Standard pricing will be the same as its overall paid inclusion program. Customers can pay 25 cents per user click to the Flash content or pay a flat fee of $49 for the first URL included and $35 for each additional one, a company spokeswoman said.

Singingfishs search engine currently indexes streaming media in Windows Media, RealAudio, RealVideo and QuickTime formats as well as MP3 files, and it is licensed for use in both Windows Media Player and Real Networks RealOne Player. The search engine also is available at and, most recently, at Comcast Corp.s broadband portal

/zimages/3/26680.gifRead what Googles Sergey Brin had to say at the Search Engines Strategies Conference & Expo 2003.