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Europe search partners fight U.S. threat

One of the region's top providers of noncommercial search results teams with Europe's No. 1 commercial listings provider to better compete against powerful U.S. rivals.

Upping the stakes in the European Internet-search market, one of the region's top providers of algorithmic, noncommercial search results has teamed with Europe's No. 1 commercial listings provider to better compete against powerful U.S. rivals.

Oslo, Norway-based Fast Search and Transfer has partnered with London's Espotting Media, the largest pay-per-click ad network in Europe, the companies announced Wednesday. Under terms of the deal, Espotting will sell Fast's Web search results alongside its commercial results, and Fast will showcase Espotting listings on its public Web site, Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This deal sees two key European search market players joining forces," Espotting CEO Jonathan Bunis said in a statement. "Our affiliates can now choose Fast as a Web search supplier to complement their Espotting listings."

The move comes as Overture Services, based in Pasadena, Calif., and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google are laying claim to greater territory overseas. As, respectively, the No. 1 and No. 2 paid-search providers for U.S.-based Web portals, the two companies have set their sights on expansion abroad to grow revenues and market share; and competition for portal partnerships has been fierce. Both companies have set up shop in Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Asia.

But each company holds slightly different value to prospective partners. Overture specializes in commercial listings. It sells advertisers placement in search results that it licenses to top portals including Yahoo and MSN. In Europe, Overture also has a relationship with Fast to use its Web search results as backfill to commercial results. In contrast, Google deals with both commercial and noncommercial listings. It hosts the Web's top search service as well as an expanding network of advertising search results, licensing both Web search and paid listings to Internet service providers, including AOL and EarthLink.

The Fast-Espotting deal makes the companies more Google-like, allowing the partners to market both Web search and commercial listings to top Web portals overseas. Espotting powers search results for the likes of Yahoo Europe, Lycos Europe, AltaVista, Tiscali and Ask Jeeves; it currently has more than 12,500 advertisers, including British Airways and eBay. Fast, which regularly indexes more than 2 billion Web documents, powers search results for AT&T, Dell Computer, Freeserve and Terra Lycos, among others.