Ask.com to buy Dictionary.com owner

The fourth-ranked search engine has agreed to acquire Lexico, which also runs Thesaurus.com and Reference.com. The goal: more traffic and more ad revenue.

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Ask.com, the fourth-ranked search engine, plans to increase its heft through an agreement to acquire Lexico Publishing Group, which operates the Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and Reference.com Web sites.

Ask.com didn't release terms of the acquisition, but Lexico is "highly profitable, with high double-digit growth for a couple years," said Jim Safka, chief executive of the IAC-owned search site. And by using Ask.com's advertising relationship with Google on the Lexico sites, the company should be able to increase the ad revenue.

Adding Lexico's Web visitor count will increase Ask.com's monthly visitors to 145 million, according to ComScore statistics, Safka said. "Overnight, our unique users will increase by 11 percent, which is outstanding," he said.

Ask far trails its biggest rival, Google, but some other competitors are within striking distance. According to search market share statistics from HitWise released Wednesday, Google had 67.25 percent share of U.S. searches in April to Yahoo's 20.28 percent, Microsoft's 6.26 percent, and Ask.com's 4.17 percent.

Microsoft's attempt to acquire Yahoo saga raised the prospect of consolidation of two of Safka's competitors.

But Safka thinks the months-long back-and-forth distracted the companies, and the news that activist shareholder Carl Icahn might take on Yahoo's board left him gleeful.

"I love it," Safka said. "Just when you thought Microsoft and Yahoo were going to get on with their lives, it's going to paralyze them once again."