Anonymous No More

Media Morph: People Search

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YORK, Pa. ( -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: People Search

What it is: You are anonymous no more. Search is evolving, and people search is no different -- mostly because people are frustrated with the old ways of trying to find someone. Names and addresses are useful, of course, but what about finding someone with similar interests, or a common name (Google bounces back 79 million hits for "Mary Smith"), or someone you know only by online identity?, a people search site that is currently in private beta, has generated the most blog buzz so far., a people search site that is currently in private beta, has generated the most blog buzz so far.

Who's doing it: In a market long dominated by simple 411 and white pages look-ups, a bevy of Web 2.0 companies, including ZabaSearch, Wink, Spock, Upscoop, Pipl and Naymz, allow seekers to find a wide range of details, characteristics and profiles. Some also offer reputation-monitoring and PR services for those who join their databases. And it's a big market: Looking for people accounts for between 7% and 30% of all searches.

Why you should care: While search ad models generally revolve around product or industry keywords, there could be some value in advertising on people-search sites. One reason is high traffic, but with these more-evolved searches, you can also begin to see other possibilities. It probably doesn't make sense to buy all the "Mary Smith" searches, but it might be a good idea to buy "coffee lovers in Santa Fe" searches if you're a coffee company. Tread cautiously, though: Privacy continues to be the key issue.

Who's getting buzz: Spock, still invitation-only, is garnering the most virtual ink from top bloggers such as Tim O'Reilly and Michael Arrington. Basically, Spock "scrubs" the web in search of profiles and information about people. It creates listings with facts, public information and social input (which can also be added by others or the subjects themselves). Spock says it will have more than 100 million people in its database at launch. It will also tag profiles with a variety of categories and offer links to related people.
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