Overture Nabs AltaVista Contract

In the midst of a reorganization around its search business, AltaVista has re-named Overture to handle its paid listings.

The two companies have been working together since November, 2000, by way of a deal that recently expired. Through the renewed, 12-month agreement, Overture will continue to provide its cost-per-click listings to CMGI-owned AltaVista’s U.S. site, as well as its Canadian search site, which had not been included in the previous deal. Both sites will receive a cut of the revenue.

Overture’s top-three keyword-based listings will appear under the heading “Products and Services,” and above AltaVista’s unpaid listings.

“AltaVista has been a terrific partner and we are pleased to continue our relationship with this popular search destination,” said John Gentry, senior vice president and general manager of Overture’s affiliate business group. “AltaVista has been a leader in search innovation and we look forward to continuing to complement its comprehensive Internet search product with our high-quality search listings.”

Typically, Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture guarantees a certain sum to be paid to its affiliate partners over the period of a contract, though it did not disclose financial terms of its new agreement with AltaVista, which is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

Through previous agreements, Overture also serves AltaVista’s German and U.K. search sites.

The new contract provides a slim measure of comfort, as both firms face renewed competition from established rivals and new players, such as Google, all of whom are vying for prime position in the relatively healthy search engine listings market.

Overture, which last month signed portal heavyweight Yahoo! to a second contract, lost out to Google — a consumer favorite among search engines and a recent entrant into the paid listings space — in a bid to renew its affiliate deal with another giant, AOL Time Warner .

In addition to Google, Overture’s challengers include longtime rival LookSmart , which recently snapped up a technology startup to improve its search results’ relevancy, similarly to that of Google. LookSmart also recently appointed a new chief marketing officer to boost sales.

AltaVista, once a highflying leader in the portal space, also is looking to cope with competition from Google as well as its own woes. In a bid to stem losses, the firm recently undertook a reorganization that has seen new management appointments and new efforts to focus on search services, rather than its original portal business.

Last month, AltaVista discontinued its free e-mail service, one of the last remnants of its portal services. The firm also picked up Fred Bullock, a former marketing exec at Apple Computer, to helm the sales and marketing organization in the company’s search division.

“We are committed to providing our users with an easy and highly effective way to find everything they need on the Web — from timely news and information resources to pricing and availability on today’s most popular products and services,” Bullock said. “As the market leader in pay-for-performance search, Overture is a key partner in meeting that commitment.”

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