By buying Singingfish, AOL immediately becomes the leader in the burgeoning field of audio and video search. A spokesman for the company said the new integrated audio and video features will make it easier for members to find streaming audio and video content from across the Web as well as on-demand and exclusive media content, by utilizing Singingfish's index of 45 million music and video files.
Chris Sherman, an analyst with SearchEngineWatch.com, believes AOL acquired Singingfish to keep rivals Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft from snatching it first. He speculated that a paid downloading service of video and audio files might be on the horizon: "This could be the prelude to AOL offering a multimedia download service," he said.
Coincidentally, Singingfish also powers the search engines for Microsoft's WindowsMedia.com and RealNetwork's RealOne paid online service. These partnerships are scheduled to continue in spite of the Singingfish's AOL acquisition.
AOL's search efforts could be crucial to getting more and more Web users engaged in multimedia content, especially since search is the No. 2 online activity after email and already the starting point for so many users' Web experiences.
Search is also becoming an increasingly important source of revenue for both advertisers and publishers. AOL says it plans to charge companies for guaranteed inclusion in its multimedia search just as Singingfish currently does with its other products.
"AOL feels there is evidence that paid inclusion enhances search results without detracting from the user's experience," notes Singingfish's Michele Large´, but adds that, while it has not been entirely discounted yet, there are no plans to incorporate paid placement. "As part of the way (the search engine) delivers results, relevancy is more important than placement," she said, noting that AOL is still "taking a look at that."
Regarding the opportunity for growth the AOL acquisition provides Singingfish and multimedia search in general, Large´ mentions the breadth and depth of the AOL multimedia proposition, adding that through all their properties they have so much rich content that she sees the partnership yielding a veritable landscape of opportunity.
"If nothing else," Large´ continues, "AOL's intent shows that audio/video search is relevant now; its no longer just an up and coming idea if such an organization sees the urgency in developing it further."