February 21, 2011

Talking with Joe Everett of Ancestry.com (a RootsTech Interview)

I sat down with Joe Everett, Content Manager at Ancestry.com during the RootsTech Conference February 10-12.



EXPERT CONNECT

We only had a few minutes to talk so the first thing I asked Joe was why Expert Connect was discontinued. I mentioned there has been a lot of grumbling in the genealogy community about the sudden cut.


Joe pointed out that he was not involved in the decision, but Ancestry as a company has many ideas and has to carefully consider where to invest. Right now their biggest focus is in delivering more records and improving the search experience for users.


Other ideas and projects are secondary out of necessity. One of the questions the company asks themselves is “how much of our resources does this project take and how much does it contribute to our goals” They also look at whether or not a project or idea is cost effective.


Joe remarked that he personally liked the idea of the service and he was hoping to offer his services in translating Russian and German documents. In his talks with genealogists, he found that many loved Expert Connect, and successfully used it to connect with clients, while others were not in favor of it.


I asked if ProGenealogists, which has been acquired by Ancestry.com, is geared to pick up Expert Connect but Joe said, no, that ProGenealogists will not take over the ExpertConnect service. However, ProGenealogists will continue to provide genealogy research services as it has before and contribute to the Who Do You Think You Are series with research.


When ProGenealogists was acquired, the company considered it to be a complimentary service to ExpertConnect, and that together they would form a great combination. However, the company found that the expected growth of ExpertConnect did not justify the investment required to maintain it as a first-rate service




CONTENT ACQUISITION & FAMILYSEARCH

My next question was about the acquisition of content. I asked if Ancestry is rethinking their plan for content acquisition in light of FamilySearch working towards the goal of digitizing and transcribing all their records and providing them for free to researchers. Joe informed me that Ancestry.com plans to continue adding much more content and has no plans of slowing down.


Joe noted that Ancestry and FamilySearch have worked co-operatively in the past, for example the 1881 UK and 1880 U.S. Federal Census were collaborative projects. They have worked together on other projects such as improving the quality of images on the Ancestry site along with enriching the data. They are always looking at other ways to work with FamilySearch.


Ancestry, Joe told me, brings one set of resources while FamilySearch brings another, and thus collaboration is a win-win.


WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE

I wanted to talk about Who Do You Think You Are. Season 1 was very successful and now we have Season 2 which looks to be quite popular. I asked Joe if Ancestry is seeing a surge in traffic and subscriptions? Joe replied that usage of the Ancestry site increases dramatically during the time WDYTYA is aired, and that new people are being introduced to family history and Ancestry.com through the series.


I wondered if we Canadians might one day get our own version of WDYTYA. Joe informed me that there was a season in 2007-2008 of Who Do You Think You Are? specifically produced for Canada. It only aired for one season. The shows official website is http://www.cbc.ca/whodoyouthinkyouare/index.php. Ancestry.com was a sponsor.

If the producers decide to do another season of WDYTYA in Canada, Ancestry.com would be very interested.


MOBILE APPS


What about Mobile Apps, I asked. There is AncestryTree for iPhone but what else might be coming for mobile users. Joe reminded me that AncestryTree app has recently released an update. The update means that now users can view records and images that are attached to their tree, from within the mobile app. Joe explained that users could always see photos but now you can see the actual images and records on your phone.

That’s a very cool upgrade! I have the AncestryTree app but haven’t done my upgrades for a week so I’ve got to get that one.

I enjoyed my talk with Joe and want to thank him for giving up part of his lunch break to spend time with me!

No comments: