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Searching the Web, just for you.

The Web holds an unbelievable amount of information, but you have to know where to look, and more important, how to look. At Seattle-based InfoSpace, they’re easing the process by streamlining the search process to get you zipping from page to page. York Baur, executive vice president, talks about metasearches, market opportunities, and mischievous employees.

What got you personally interested in doing this kind of work?

I’m a Northwest high-tech industry refugee, and my interest in technology goes back as far as grade school. But beyond the technology, what really got me interested in this industry is its dynamic nature. It’s like the weather in Seattle: If you don’t like it, just wait five minutes, because it’s constantly changing.

What kind of work is done in the search engine division at InfoSpace?

The InfoSpace search is unique within the industry because we do something called metasearch. Simply put, we search the search engines to provide users with the best-of-the-best results on the Web for a given request. As an example, at any of our core search site properties, a user can search 13 engines at once.

Today, 87 percent of users on the Web use more than one search engine because while each has its own unique specialty, no one single engine can cover the entire Web and put the best results at the top 100 percent of the time. Our pitch to the user is simple: Why drive all over town when you can come to our mall? You’ll search 50 percent more of the Web with us than with any other single search engine.

Why do you think there’s a need for what InfoSpace provides?

Well, at the end of the day, searching is the No. 2 activity on the Web after e-mail, and our metasearch products play a crucial role in helping consumers find what they’re after. Also, our research has found that 85 percent of those surveyed didn’t know what metasearch is. However, once the concept was explained, 85 percent of those found it valuable. That alone represents a great market opportunity, and at the same time, it’s a challenge, especially from a marketing perspective. We know that we have something special, but it is a matter of getting it out into the mainstream.

How did you feel about your employees creating a list of your oft-said phrases, and a birthday PowerPoint presentation that poked fun at you?

If you’re going to dish it out, you’ve got to be able to take it, and like my mom said, “They wouldn’t poke fun at you if they didn’t like you.” I’ve had the good fortune to work with a group of people that have helped to create a strong, positive culture at InfoSpace, and their creativity shines through in all areas, including giving the boss a bad time.

What do you like best about what you do?

Earlier in my career, I used to enjoy the technology aspects of what I did, but now it’s all about the people. I love working with a talented team of people to create success, and I’m lucky to find myself in that position here at InfoSpace. I’m humbled by the creativity, dedication, and drive of my group, and I enjoy learning with them and from them every day as we build our business. And best of all, I get to look forward to the next practical joke they’re going to play on me.

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