June 17, 2005
Yesterday, FatLens has officially launched what it says is
the first Internet search engine for event tickets. FatLens premiered
its vertical search technology in the fast-changing event ticket sector.
The problem for most fans seeking good seats is that there are
hundreds of similar websites where that elusive ticket could be
This not only includes ticket resale specialists like RazorGator,
but also auction sites such as eBay, community sites CraigsList
and newspapers' online classified listings.
FatLens ticket search results combine available seats from the
various outlets; users can narrow their searches by section or by price,
then buy tickets by clicking on a button next to the desired tickets.
According to Jupiter Research's Retail Forecast Summary, the online
channel will account for 18.5 percent of all event ticket sales this
By 2009, online sales will take a 22.7 percent share. Despite
that nice chunk of ecommerce, FatLens has its sights set on a bigger
marketplace: product search. "We launched the technology using ticket
search because that's a difficult category to do," Kumar said. In the
fall, FatLens will add search within multiple categories of products.
Kumar, FatLens's CEO said that can give shoppers better results
because it combines true Web search with technology to identify product
attributes, while shopping comparison sites aggregate results from
specific merchants but don't show everything available.
"Instead of indexing words and pages, we index products for sale,"
he said. "We have an intelligent crawler that understands what
products are there on a page." The crawler also can do queries of a
database associated with a site. Most product information is stored
as structured data within a database.
FatLens may face plenty of competition as well as opportunity,
according to Jupiter Research analyst Gary Stein. "There's a great
opportunity to build vertical search engines right now because the
big Web indexes are getting so huge that it's hard to find the
specific thing you want."
Stein said the availability of application programming interfaces
into Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon.com make it easy to apply vertical
search algorithms to those companies' indexes without having to build
one from scratch.
FatLens is building a proprietary index, rather than doing a meta
search of other search engines' indexes. Kumar said because the
universe of shopping sites is rather limited, building the index is
doable. "It's not like I have to deal with every blog on the planet,"
The company has a somewhat precarious business model, relying on
affiliate fees for sending traffic to merchants, as well as showing
pay-per-click advertising from a third-party provider such as Yahoo
or Google against search results. (FatLens hasn't yet entered into
such an advertising agreement.)
While affiliate marketing itself is a very solid business model,
Stein said, the big problem with vertical search services is the
cost of getting traffic. When starting out, vertical search players will
almost certainly need to buy keyword advertising on the major search
He explained that they can fall into a circular trap in which they
pay full price for their ads appearing on Google or Yahoo, while they
only get a percentage of the revenue from the ads Google or Yahoo
places on their own sites.
"You have to assume that searchers go to Google the first time and
next time, hopefully, they'll come directly to you. Getting people
to bookmark your site is the real challenge," Stein said.
FatLens is counting on the viral, repeat nature of ticket sales to
build up its user base and keep it out of that vicious circle. "People
don't go to a game alone," he pointed out, "and they go to three or
four a season. Avid fans are the leaders that others turn to when they
want to find tickets. We picked a sector where changing user behavior
has some weight."
Source: Internet News.com
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