gets smarter with help from Lonely Planet, others

Exclusive: is amping up its star power. The Q&A search engine — which provides a mix of user-generated and algorithmically sourced content — has added several heavyweight partnerships to make sure it answers users’ questions in the best way possible.

Ask has inked new partnerships with Lonely Planet,┬áSports Network, Weather Underground, and others to power its new “Smart Answers” initiative. In an interview Wednesday, Ask’s director of partnerships Dave Amato told me the Smart Answers feature is aimed at providing a highly relevant and useful answer from a source with “high integrity.” Ask has 25 Smart Answer partners up and live right now, and plans to add at least three or four new partners every few months going forward.

The company has found that these types of answers are exactly what their users want — a blend of personality and accuracy. “We’re the only Q&A service that combines search with answers from real people,” Amato said. “We know for a fact that users love Smart Answers because they tell us.” Another big focus for Smart Answers is its usefulness for Ask’s mobile site. “When you’re on mobile, that is definitely when you don’t want to wade through blue links.”

Ask has been especially choosy about the partners it has picked for the Smart Answers initiative. “We get approached all the time from content providers and brands who want to be an answer provider, and when we find out what they really want is an ad, we turn down those immediately,” Amato said.

In all, Ask seems to be firing at all cylinders to fend off competition from hot new Q&A sites such as Quora. Adding new big-name friends to answer users’ commonly asked questions — such as how many calories are in a bagel — this seems like a smart move indeed.