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Local Search Behemoth InfoSpace Cashed Out

Last year when InfoSpace decided to sell off Switchboard, other directories, and their mobile services, I wondered [1] if they were just cashing out. Yesterday’s New York Times article, “Once an Internet Giant, InfoSpace Dismantles Itself [2]“, would appear to verify that they did indeed cash out.

Infospace [3]

The article further reports that the www.InfoSpace.com domain homepage began redirecting to www.Superpages.com a few weeks ago.

InfoSpace continues to operate, albeit at a much-reduced size in terms of numbers of employees and assets, focusing on their metasearch services such as Dogpile, MetaCrawler, and WebCrawler.

It may be that the operators of InfoSpace are indeed looking for their next big thing to do as a company, as was hinted at in their press statements last year. It still makes one wonder what that would be, since they had been a general search engine, then local search engine and mobile services company. The metasearch area seems like a very, very small slice of the pie in advertising terms, and one would expect it to shrink as Google appears to be eating up greater amounts of overall marketshare according to some reports [4]. These changes would all appear to be eroding the value of the name brand as well — something not good, even if the plan involves the eventual sale of that intellectual property asset.

If InfoSpace is to rise back up again it will need a visionary to help it find the next big thing. Interestingly, one of the founders, Naveen Jain [5], went across the street when he left the company back in 2002, and opened up another competing local search oriented company, Intelius [6] (provider of background checks and criminal record searches), which by all outside appearances seems to be operating quite successfully.

While some are critical [7] of various Intelius marketing efforts, I’ve long noted the robust services they provide and have been impressed with their ability to affectively market their products and increase distribution through the internet using noncontroversial promotions. I’ve even purchased their services on occasion. Regardless of business practices involved, Naveen Jain helped create a compelling product while at InfoSpace and he’s repeated some measure of success at Intelius as well. InfoSpace needs a similar sort of visionary for the sake of long-term viability or they’ll ultimately cash out for investors as only a short-term investment.

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