IAC's Life123 Comes To Life; Goals Include Saving You Time, Ranking Well In Search

This story was written by Joseph Weisenthal.
If you must think of every new thing as the "something-killer" then you'd probably call Life123 an About.com-killer, or a Mahalo killer, or a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Knol killer. Fortunately, as Robert Deutsch, VP of content development & operations at the new IAC-owned unit, assured me, About.com doesn't have to die for Life123 to thrive. We first broke the news that IAC (NSDQ: IACI) was cooking up a new how-to aggregator back in April. At the time, we knew it as Life333.com, which was in fact an early name for the project. Turns out, in testing, users didn't like the concept of dividing content into 3-minute, 30-minute and 3-hour chunks so that named got ditched for the current one. The new site still offers users the chance to dive into a topic at various depths from quick and dirty summaries to more thorough explorations

The site is an aggregator of how-to type content, all of it acquired through various partnerships, many with IAC's far-flung properties. Within the IAC family, content is provided by Match.com, Shoebuy.com, LendingTree.com, RealEstate.com, ServiceMagic, Ask, Pronto and Reserve America. It's launching today with about 1,000 topics on topics like HDTVs and superfoods, and 10,000 distinct pieces of content. And like its natural competitors, SEO is a big part of the strategy. Said SVP/GM Ben Joslin: "Obviously, at IAC we have deep SEO expertise." But, he noted, the goal is still to make good content, not just to make content that shows up well in search.

-- The obvious question: What will make Life123 stand out from the crowded herd, including the competitors listed above, along with numerous other guides, directories and how-to sites? Joslin had good stuff to say about About, but said the site lacked its own, branded content. As for Mahalo, he said: "What they've done is gone and created a landing page." Rather than a place to go discover more stuff elsewhere, Life123 wants to be a destination. And as for all those other sites out there, he said most of them spoon feed users content, instead of allowing them to discover at the depth they want. Lots more after the jump

-- Business model: Life123 offers a mix of licensed and originally produced content. Only written, in-house content, which will make up 70 percent of the site, will be paid for directly. Content acquired from outside partners is obtained through a variety of deals, including performance-based measures. For videoone of the hottest how-to areasthe company is partnering with 5min.com, an Israeli startup that raised $5 million earlier this year from Spark. The revenue model is pretty straightforward, based around advertising. And while Joslin likened the business to an annuity (it keeps paying you in perpetuity as long as it shows up in search), a key goal here is to help the rest of IAC, including the spins. If the site can deliver more traffic to properties like LendingTree and Shoebuy, that's "additional juice from the squeeze", even if it doesn't directly benefit Life123's bottom line. That being said, the ultimate goal is to make money for itself. Finally, I was curious, especially in the wake of Knol's launch, about the relationship between the site and Ask.com. Right now there are no plans for any deep integration between the two services, although Ask.com does power the search engine that's on the site, as you'd expect. And the site will be indexed by Ask just as any other site would

- Bottom Line: Sure, sites like About.com, Mahalo, Knol and now this all have different content acquisition strategies, and they may serve different purposes for users. But as long as a big part of the game is just selecting high-volume searches and then showing up high on Google, more and more players are vying for an increasingly scarce commodity. And there's also the chance that Google may redouble its efforts to be the last search engine you need, not the place to find another place to find content.

By Joseph Weisenthal