Searching for a slice

So many upstarts are slicing Web search into so many niches--e.g., travel, shopping, tickets, teens--it's easy to imagine that many of them will be too thin and slip through the cracks of consumer interest. But while the search-marketing dollars keep adding up, "vertical" players will continue to line up for a share. (Or for a buyout by the three kings, Google, Yahoo or MSN.) offers a nice twist on the travel genre, however. The new "beta" site lets people set up a travel blog and find getaway information, such as maps. Essentially, it's a digital reference guide to destinations, but it's also padded with personal blog posts on points of interest in a given area. That could either humanize travel research, or add to the noise. We'll see.

A sweepstakes site may be the surest sign of the oodles of cash to be made in search-engine marketing. is taking the "beta" wrapping off its giveway seach engine and touting a licensing partnership with Google, which is powering its search and ad results. Visitors can win iPods, Netflix subscriptions or movie tickets without registering. Seems like a follow-on to, which was eventually bought by Ask Jeeves. is targeting job-hunting for a search makeover. Its beta Web site lets people mine millions of job listings (aggregated from third parties) with a few keywords and location.

And LookSmart, whose business plummeted with the loss of MSN as a partner, is trying for a comeback with a slew of vertical search engines and services like Furl. New this week are five niche sites, including for moms and teen search site

Tech Culture
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    Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.


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