Watch Out Doing a Search Dance With This Partner-Cha Cha

Jason Pontin has a interesting story today in the New Tork Times business section about the use and misuse of people to assist computers in such tasks as searches [“Artificial Intelligence, with Help From the Humans” reg. required]. He cites Cha Cha, a company that has received investment from Jeff Bezos of Cha Cha, explains Pontin, is a “human-assisted search company.” There is another part of the Cha Cha story. We think of it more as a stealth-like online advertising vehicle disguised in `Google’ search garb. While users of Cha Cha await the help of “real” people to assist them with their information searches, here’s what is really happening, courtesy of Behavioral Insider:

“Traditional search interactions take only a matter of seconds – but interactive search with guides takes on average a few minutes. During that period, as searchers are working with guides to tailor their answers, display ads can be targeted by subject matter and user interest. So imagine that someone is interested in athletic shoes. Not only do you base targeting on their keyword search but, based on the kinds of questions they’ve asked in the past, you learn what kind of athletic shoes, whether they’re a middle-aged mom interested in taking up jogging or buying a gift for their teenage son. During the guided search session you can target short, video-rich media based on what their needs and interests are.”

Interview with co-founder of “next generation search firm” ChaCha. “Beyond Keywords: New Dimensions In Search Behavior.” Phil Leggiere. Behavioral Insider. March 14, 2007.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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