IQ News: Altavista To Start Searching For A Broader Web Audience

Following the route of its larger competitors in the search category, AltaVista will redesign its site ( to target mainstream Web users by early next month. The search engine has primarily attracted a tech audience and is now changing the site to eventually include 10 to 12 themed information “zones,” shopping and a spell-checker for searches.
The new-look site will launch with a month-long promotional push supported by Web media buys, direct marketing and public relations, said Kathleen Greenler, director of marketing for AltaVista Search Service, Littleton, Mass. But the brand may also hit the airwaves by year’s end. Greenler said that if the company goes ahead with a TV campaign, it will be bigger than the launch efforts of Yahoo, Excite, Lycos and Infoseek, which each spent under $10 million.
AltaVista is also looking at striking Internet access deals and is studying converting the service into a portal site that would launch users onto the Web each time they log on.
The service is perking up its promotional efforts just as its rivals continue to cut deals to pull in more advertising revenue. Each of the search services stated at the d:tech conference last week in Chicago that they will continue to build their business as older media have: by inducing audience loyalty through such measures as customized service.
As it goes forward, the service intends to build on its base of 21 million global users by emphasizing its search capabilities. The service has also been building brand awareness in a variety of cities through sponsorship deals with National Public Radio, the Sony Imax Everest film and with a contest at NBA arenas dubbed NBA Search Challenge.
“We want AltaVista to be known as the default standard for searching,” Greenler said.
But AltaVista, which just last year converted its site into an ad-supported search service, has a few obstacles ahead of it. By mid-June, the Compaq buyout of parent company, Digital Equipment Corp., Maynard, Mass., should be finalized, which will ultimately determine the fate of AltaVista’s operations.