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Beyond 2000: LookSmart begins soul-search

Beyond 2000: LookSmart begins soul-search

Australian-founded search directory specialist LookSmart is happy with its role as a sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Games, but has made no decisions on its future involvement with the Olympics.

Under its contract with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), LookSmart has built a customised directory comprising more than 25,000 websites covering 3,000 Olympics-related categories, in addition to several foreign-language directories.

Sites pertaining to pin collecting, countries, athletes, individual sports, past Olympics and the present Games have been collected in the single directory which is accessible from the official Olympics site, http://www.olympics.com, and from LookSmart's site, http://www.looksmart.com.

"It is the first ever directory of its kind and the first one for Olympics.com," said Becky Thompson, LookSmart Australia's vice president for marketing. "We're pretty pleased with how it's going." On September 15, the first day of the Games, traffic to the directory quadrupled from the previous week. "The Olympics is far more internet-enabled this year than it was four years ago," Thompson added.

LookSmart has spent the last year building the directory after signing on with SOCOG as a partner about a year ago. A team of editors have used LookSmart's existing search technology to comb the web for Olympics-related sites, Thompson said. Strict policies were adhered to in the selection process, with broken, faulty, incomplete or inappropriate sites excluded from the directory.

Beginning with a small team in Australia, over the year the number of editors has grown to 40 around the world. "Predominantly the work was done in the US, with some work done in other countries on the foreign-language directories," Thompson said.

She added that work on the directory will continue throughout the Games and the start of competition has already fuelled a surge in new sites, in particular fan sites.

"We will continue to build the directory through to the Paralympics (starting on October 18) and onwards," Thompson said.

However, the long-term future of LookSmart as an Olympic sponsor is yet to be determined. The search engine is yet to sign for the next Olympics.

"We are very happy at the moment. We are getting what we wanted out of the relationship," Thompson said. The branding association that LookSmart hopes to gain from the close connection with the Olympics was one of the main reasons the company pursued the relationship.

Key advertising contracts have also emerged. According to Thompson, LookSmart's US sales team has signed up several key IOC-approved companies to advertise on the site, generating shared revenue for LookSmart and SOCOG.

LookSmart has developed a number of smaller directories, including a customised children's service for free ISP FreeOnline, but the olympics.com directory has been the biggest project thus far.


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