Wednesday, July 25

The Economist features Globalspec

A few weeks ago the Economist featured a story on topic-specific search engines, entitled Vertical search-engines, Know your subject. Globalspec is the leading example from the story:
GlobalSpec.com, for example, a profitable search-engine for engineers, has 3.5m registered users and signs up another 20,000 each week. “They own that market,” says Charlene Li of Forrester, a consultancy.
It's great to see Globalspec getting well-deserved recognition for its hard work over a period of a decade of helping Engineers to build products and inventions that change the world.

The Economist goes on to feature health as an emerging topic area for vertical search, featuring MedStory, Healia, Healthline, and Mamma Health.

The real challenge for specialized search engines is that most users still use Google for most of their search activity and it works 'good enough' for their specialized searches. As the story writes:
... a vertical search-engine that successfully pairs a broad target market with a complicated topic can do well... But that will mean getting consumers to kick their existing search habits. A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit research group, found that two-thirds of Americans researching health-related topics online started with a general search-engine. Only 27% went on to a medical site of any kind, let alone a health-search site. “The path to general search engines is well-worn and familiar,” says Susannah Fox of Pew.
Yahoo shortcuts and Google Base integration with general search engines may be enough to spell the demise of weaker vertical engines that do not continue to continue to differentiate themselves with significantly more relevant and comprehensive information coverage of their specialty.

The article concludes with three options for vertical search engines: domination in a topic, death by Google (Base), and acquisition by GYM or other large media companies seeking to expand into new media.

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