NEW YORK (Reuters) – Search site Ask.com will announce on Thursday a deal to buy Lexico, home to popular reference Web sites Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com, a move that will expand its audience by 11 percent.
Ask's influence within IAC/InterActiveCorp is growing as the Internet conglomerate plans to spin off four of its largest businesses and focus on Web media and advertising later this year.
With Lexico, Ask expects to expand its audience to more than 145 million unique monthly users. Based on March traffic data from comScore, that would make Ask.com the ninth-largest Web property globally.
The deal is also born of a reversal of fortunes. Lexico agreed last year to a $100 million cash buyout from Answers Corp, home to Answers.com. That deal fizzled in March after Answers scrapped a stock offering needed to fund it.
“As soon as it fell apart, the next day I made a phone call,” IAC Chief Executive Jim Safka told Reuters. “They were excited. These guys saw the same fit that we did.”
Ask.com would not give financial terms of the deal.
Once the deal closes, likely in the third quarter, Safka expects Ask.com to quickly add new layers to the experience of Dictionary.com, such as its capacity to provide video clips and images alongside text entries. More than 30 percent of Ask.com searches today already fall within the reference category.
Though only about 20 people work at Lexico now, the company has managed to build ad revenue and profit at a fast pace, Safka said. With the acquisition, it should benefit from Ask.com's larger network for selling ads, as well as a partnership with search leader Google Inc.
Safka took the helm at Ask in January and has since set in motion a series of steps to grow the business, whose search market share trails far behind Google and its distant rival, Yahoo Inc.
He expects new initiatives grown within the company to come to light late this year, as well as the potential for more acquisitions. Lexico itself was on a “short list” of companies that Safka has eyed to complement Ask.com's business.
By Michele Gershberg
(Editing by Braden Reddall)