MSN picks ex-Jeeves man to head search service

MSN has appointed Ask Jeeves former UK head of business development David Graham to spearhead the UK side of its much-heralded entry into the search market.

Graham, who becomes MSN UK’s search business manager, was responsible for negotiating and managing all third-party revenue streams at Ask Jeeves, including the multi-million pound sponsored listings deal with Google and integrated product search with Kelkoo.

MSN’s search facility is provided by three main external suppliers, all of which have been acquired by rival portal operator Yahoo!. For ordinary web searches, it uses Inktomi; for comparison shopping searches, it relies on Kelkoo; and for paid-for searches (where advertisers pay to appear in the results), it has an arrangement with Overture.

However, MSN, owned by software giant Microsoft, has identified search services as a key area where it lags behind rival portals and has been working on developing its own search software for some time now. Industry experts say it has allocated a budget of &£3bn to the project.

In July, it released a preview version of its new algorithmic search engine, and said it planned to launch a full version within a year. It also unveiled a $100m (&£54m) upgrade to its existing search homepage, with a new website design and additional services.

MSN used the launch of the new-look search page to announce that it was evaluating the role paid-for search listings should play in its future search offerings.

It is understood that Graham took voluntary redundancy from Ask Jeeves as part of its recent restructure, which cut seven jobs from the back-office and direct sales teams.

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