With rumors of a possible sale of Infoseek circulating last week on the Internet, and Time Warner and CNET denying that they are interested potential buyers, Infoseek president and CEO Harry Motro hit the road for a media tour to announce several new products. Infoseek is billing itself as “a connected media company,” Motro said. “We are not a search engine.” He would not comment on whether the company is for sale.
The company is launching a new channel format today that organizes information and communities into 15 subject areas. The channels will have personalization, chat and instant messaging built in. Infoseek is announcing about 50 content partners for the new channels, including career site Monster Board, Realtor.com, CNNfn, Hearst New Media and Technology’s HomeArts, entertainment site Mr. Showbiz, Preview Travel, MSNBC and CBS SportsLine.
The company is also launching a product called Infoseek Desktop today, a desktop icon that computer users can click on to access all Infoseek services. At launch the initial version will be available only to PC users.
Though Infoseek is somewhat late in switching to a channel format-well behind Excite and America Online, for example-Motro believes Infoseek’s format is a “next generation of channels” because the search capabilities and channels are integrated. Unlike Excite, Infoseek is not offering free email, a decision that Motro defended.
“Most people come to navigation companies for navigation,” said Motro, who joined the company last spring from CNN Interactive. “Email will be one of those things people expect to see, but is it the core reason people come to these sites? The answer is no.”
Infoseek’s channels will combine aspects of Yahoo’s directory service, based on human surfers trolling the Internet, and Excite’s, which uses technology rather than people to search the Web.
“Yahoo has its own directory. They outsource search to AltaVista,” Motro said. “Excite took the technology approach. We’ve combined those to integrate the experience.”
Motro said Infoseek would take its time in announcing the type of transaction deals popular among its competitors in favor of not “slapping things together.”
“They’re all multiyear deals,” he said. “We want to do them right. That’s why we’ve been quiet, but that is a priority for the company.”
Infoseek is also gearing up for a $5 million campaign including TV, print, outdoor and online media that will launch during the next few months. Agencies Ingalls Moranville and Left Field, both in San Francisco, are creating the campaign.
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