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Overture Chief Sees Clear Sailing Ahead

All Politics

Another product that Overture is working on is locally targeted advertising, which the company hopes to debut by the end of the year.

In theory, localized online ads are a huge business opportunity. In practice, no one has made a tremendous success of it. And that includes Meisel, who formerly worked at CitySearch, since subsumed into InterActiveCorp (IACI).

The difficulty, says Meisel, is that local advertising is complicated for both the advertisers and Overture itself, which first entertained the idea of localized search-engine advertising in 1999. "We've been waiting until we could get automation to the right point and service to the right point where we could help advertisers through that in a cost-effective way," he says.

On the subject of integrating Overture with Yahoo!, Meisel says the biggest challenge will be melding operations in the area of algorithmic search -- that is, search results determined by automated processes rather than the bid-for-placement scheme at the heart of Overture's core business. Yahoo! purchased algorithmic search-engine operator Inktomi earlier this year, while Overture acquired algorithmic search technology from FAST and AltaVista.

Although Overture hopes to completely integrate AltaVista and FAST by the end of the year, there's no timetable for the expected subsequent merger with Inktomi. "We have a fair amount of planning to do," says Meisel.

Finally, Meisel is sanguine about the company's competitive position with the privately held Google, both before and after the completion of the Yahoo! deal. He points out that Overture has won several recent affiliation deals with publishers, including one with Knight-Ridder (KRI).

"There's been an air of invincibility around Google," says Meisel, "that I think we've punctured just in the last month."

Over the long run, he returned again to the security issue: "By having captive access to everything that Yahoo! has to offer -- the full breadth of the Yahoo! network -- we know we have a traffic source that will allow us to continue to make plans with great certainty," says Meisel. "So, we can invest in order to be as competitive as possible."

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