GoTo.com rolls over

By Published on .

Goto is gone. It's OVER.

Citing a shift in its business model, and the plethora of sites that use the word "Go" as some part of their name, GoTo.com is shifting its name to Overture today, casting aside its yellow and green logo for a more subdued blue palette.

But it's not just another dot-com looking for a last-ditch new business model, even if its new ticker symbol, OVER, might suggest that. The Pasadena, Calif.-based company is expecting to reach profitability in the third quarter, according to generally accepted accounting principles. It had revenue of $62.5 million in the second quarter, an almost three-fold increase over the same period in 2000. The stock is far off its 2000 peak, but GoTo still boasts a $700 million-plus market capitalization.

All of which makes it surprising that the company is looking to recast itself. "We did this as a signal to our [distribution] partners," Mr. Meisel said last week. And he's not talking about the estimated 11.3 million unique visitors that the site garnered in July (ranking it 24th overall), according to Jupiter Media Metrix.

Instead, he's talking about the company's increasing focus on distributing its service to partners, including AOL Time Warner's online properties. Ninety-five percent of the former GoTo's traffic comes from partners.

The shift shows how drastically the industry has changed during the shakeout. Before the dot-com earthquake began in mid-2000, the company was going by the name GoTo.com, and promoting its site as a marketplace for consumers and advertisers. It even sued Walt Disney Co. in 1999, saying the logo for Disney's consumer-focused Go.com was too similar to its own. (Go.com is now a scaled-back aggregrator of Disney content.)

The GoTo.com site, though it will run under the Overture name, is almost beside the point, as is any attempt to build Overture as a consumer brand. As such, the relaunch budget is a paltry $1 million, mostly to sell companies on its business-to-business focus.

But it appears the model of playing second-branding fiddle to other sites is working. Overture makes its money by distributing its service and having advertisers pay for leads based on a cost they feel is reasonable for the keywords they buy.

But Overture's success shouldn't be seen as an easily copied blueprint, according to Adam Gerber, VP-director of media strategy at the Digital Edge unit of WPP Group's Media Edge. He believes most online companies will only find big money in gaining branding dollars. "It's one small corner of the canvas."

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