If you recall my 2004 predictions, I claimed Bloglines would be sold to a major search engine. I just didn’t think it would be Ask. But come to think of it, it’s a good fit – Yahoo is well on their way toward the Bloglines space with its integration of MyYahoo RSS, and Google, well, Google doesn’t seem to have the appetite for RSS many wish it did. MSFT is busy getting its index up to speed.
“Ask was the best fit,” Mark Fletcher told me last week. “They have a multi-brand strategy – we will not be going away.”
Fletcher, who together with Larry’s brother Carl Page and a few others sold his other company – eGroups – to Yahoo back in the golden era for a whole lotta dough – does not need to sell. So his choice of Ask is instructive. “Ask got it,” he proclaimed, indicating others were in the hunt but did not, er, get it. “We had a lot of choices, and this one made the most sense.”
So, I asked Jim Lanzone, Ask’s head of search and the architect of the deal, what are you going to do with Bloglines? “Our plan is to leave it alone for now,” Lanzone answered. “We’ll integrate it across properties, but if it never makes us a dime directly, it will make money for us indirectly.”
In other words, Bloglines is growing like a weed, has tons of users, and more interestingly, tons of data about what those users read. Those profiles might make for some serious endemic advertising plays down the road. Both Fletcher and Lanzone concur. “The profile a user makes on Bloglines is a pretty good proxy for a user’s interest,” Lanzone said. “But step one is to let Mark blow it out, and see where it goes.”
So don’t expect any AdWords or other monetization, at least at first, and not in your face. Lanzone took pains to make sure I understood that *he* understood he has a good thing, and doesn’t want to f*ck it up.
One thing that will come out of this, Lanzone said, is “world class blog search.” Stay tuned, Ask is getting interesting…
PS – No, I don’t know how much Bloglines was sold for, Ask and Mark are not saying. However, I am sure it was not a trivial number. Mark would not give me user metrics, but it’s in the hundreds of thousands, if not past a million. How valuable is that to a search platform? In a word, very. I’d be surprised if the deal was less than $25 million. But what do I know? Nothing. Sure, Bloglines has no revenue. None, zip, nada. So much can and probably will be made of the fact that this was yet another sign of an impending bubble. But…then again, Bloglines has more than 280 million blog posts in that index. That’s a lot of data….and a lot of profiles of its hundreds of thousands of users. That’s worth something, quite a bit of something….
UPDATE: My dangling of the $25 million number out there has gotten a number of responses – from parties that are in reasonable positions to know. I am told the figure is closer to $14 million or so. I can’t confirm this…yet, but there you go.