The mobile search industry is getting more prolific by the day, and beyond basic web-search via mobile devices, new services are adding a human touch to strengthen the results. You may recall ChaCha, which is one such service that has made huge strides in recent years by offering human “guides” that will answer your questions free of charge, and provide a “conversation-like” exchange with the search user.
A new service, dubbed “Kgb,” is a new player to the market even though its roots have been planted for some 17 years. The company, originally named INFONXX, was a fixed-line directory assistance service in the beginning that racked up an impressive $650M in revenue just last year. The service is already gaining momentum in the UK, and has just recently entered the US market. You’ve most likely seen one of its high-profile commercials that are getting heavy airplay in the US at the moment.
Kgb answers questions online as well, but is focusing primarily on its text-in service. The only problem is it costs users $.50 per question anwered, which is rather pricey compared to other “human intelligence” search providers that offer the same service free of charge- Mosio and ChaCha immediately come to mind. A text-based service like this should always be ad-supported in my mind. There’s to many other options available for users to pay for it. Beyond Google and Yahoo which just offer algorythm-based results for free, many players are now offering human-powered results for free as well. Kgb is betting on their service standing out from the rest and creating niche-users based on the complexity of the questions and answers in produces.
“A full, free model is one we’ve chosen not to pursue,” said Kgb’s CEO Bruce Stewart. “People have shown an appetite, when you provide a valuable service, to pay for that service. It also allows you a certain amount of freedom from advertising. We still believe there’s an opportunity for ads, but nicely targeted ads that are relevant and that complement the answer.”
The whole “human-powered” mobile search idea is still in its infancy, and it’s way to early to start making judgements, but in the long-run, I just don’t see something like this being as popular as normal mobile search- both from an end-user point of view and as a business model.