In its second-largest acquisition, Amazon buys the company for $970 million.
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From Cox, he moved over to About.com as COO and president of sales. That was where he became part of a team that created 500-plus web sites-a valuable experience for what he would encounter at LookSmart. “It was at About.com where I became enamored with this business and I patterned much of the LookSmart strategy on what I learned at About.com,” Hills says.
Getting the word out
From About.com, Hills moved to marketing company 24/7 Real Media in August 2003 where he was president of media solutions before joining LookSmart in the fall of 2004.
Now one of his biggest challenges is to get the word out to a consumer audience about a site most have never have heard of. To do that, LookSmart is taking a multi-pronged approach. First it is paying the general engines, such as Google and Yahoo, to refer niche users to LookSmart. Then, it is identifying specialists who are considered leaders in their fields and trying to get them to make referrals.
“We have a good site on Italian cooking and we need to get the word out to people who like to cook Italian food,” Hills says. “The first thing we did was to identify some of the top Italian chefs and make them aware of our site so that they can refer people to us who need tips on this topic.”
The question now is whether LookSmart can indeed get consumers to use its search capabilities and as a result bring the eyeballs demanded by the advertisers. “It’s hard to say yet if Hills can pull this off,” says Matinuzzi. “So far, they’ve only made baby steps, but they have made progress. Every quarter, revenues are up, so at least they’re moving in the right direction.” l
Lauri Giesen is a Libertyville, Ill.-based freelance business writer.
LookSmart breaks its site into:
Technology & Games