Ask.com buys trio of online reference sites

  • Oakland (CA) - Ask.com, the flagging online search destination, has acquired Lexico Publishing Group, an Internet media company that owns Thesaurus.com and Reference.com.  It also purchased philologist-friendly site Dictionary.com (which you can use to figure out the meaning of that word).

    Ask.com hopes this will rebrand itself as an Internet specialist in answering questions instead of providing blanket search results.

    "We want to 'super serve'" people who are looking for specific information, said the head of Ask.com Jim Safka in an AP story.  He added that 30% of current Ask.com users are looking for certain reference material.

    Ask.com has been fighting vehemently to remain a viable competitor in an industry overwhelmingly dominated by Google and Yahoo.  In the last year alone, it completely revamped its privacy policy, innovated the Ask.com front page by allowing users to place custom designs in the background and shifted its search algorithm twice.

    Safka said this is the beginning of a new focus for the company.  "It's the first tangible piece of the puzzle," he noted.  

    Dictionary.com, which is seen as the most valuable of Ask.com's acquisitions, currently brings in around 22 million viewers per month.

    The latest Comscore ratings for search websites placed Ask.com at fifth with less than 5% of the market share.