Ask Jeeves buys Bloglines

Search company adds the blog specialist to its corral in an effort to keep pace with rivals Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Ask Jeeves announced Tuesday that it has bought privately held Bloglines, a site for searching millions of personal Web pages and aggregating news headlines.

As expected, the search company will add Trustic, which owns Bloglines, to its corral of Web search products in an effort to keep pace with rivals Google, Yahoo and MSN.

With the property, Ask Jeeves plans to build a specialized blog search engine and fold the service into its various properties, including personalization product MyJeeves and the portal Excite.com, said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president at Ask Jeeves. It will also maintain Bloglines as a separately branded site to encourage people to aggregate and search for news headlines and blogs, as well as pen their own sites. The average user of Bloglines visits the site four times a day, Lanzone said.

"The primary benefit here is gaining the leading doorway to all these feeds online," said Lanzone, referring to the syndication format RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

Neither the financial terms of the deal nor the size of Bloglines' staff was disclosed. Bloglines founder and CEO Mark Fletcher will join Oakland, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves as Bloglines general manager and will relocate to Ask Jeeves' satellite office in Los Gatos, Calif.

The acquisition makes sense for Ask Jeeves, given the mounting interest in blog publishing and aggregation services among search engines. Google, for example, in 2003 acquired Pyra Labs, creator of Blogger. Yahoo late last year overhauled its personalized Web service to rely on RSS, which allows subscribers to aggregate news headlines and blog entries. MSN recently introduced a publishing service for blogs, MSN Spaces.

The draw for all the search engines is potential new advertising revenue that could come from expanding paid links to RSS feeds and blogs. Search engines are also interested in bolstering search technologies for the expanding universe of blogs.

Lanzone said the company does not have immediate plans to add advertising to Bloglines, and it is still evaluating future business models, including subscriptions.

Bloglines, based in Redwood City, Calif., went online in June 2003. It claims more than 200 million blog articles in a searchable database.

The company has fielded complaints from at least one blogger, however. Martin Schwimmer, who writes about trademark law, recently asked Bloglines to remove his site from its aggregation service, saying that the service was reproducing his Web log for commercial purposes, against its Creative Commons License.

Last week, Ask Jeeves reported fourth-quarter profits that doubled and beat analyst expectations. It recorded earnings of $17.5 million, or 25 cents per share on revenue of $86.1 million in the fourth quarter. That's compared with $7.6 million, or 13 cents, on revenue of $31.8 million in the same period a year earlier.

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