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LookSmart steps into traffic

Soon Reader's Digest's channel-driven Net directory will be featured on Netscape's search page.

LookSmart, hoping to position itself as the trailblazer of Reader's Digest's expanding Web presence, is announcing three new online ventures on Monday.

The channel-driven Net directory soon will be featured on Netscape's NetSearch page as one of Netscape's "preferred" tools for searching the Web, LookSmart officials said.

In another deal, LookSmart will announce a pact with AltaVista to feature a customized "search" using AltaVista's technology.

LookSmart also is striking a partnership with smaller content providers in fields such as education, sports, and entertainment. The deals are seen as mutually beneficial: LookSmart is expected to drive traffic into smaller sites, while in turn generating advertising revenue.

Such deals are becoming more common as directories try to beef up their content and approximate online services. That's why LookSmart considers the partnerships integral to its online strategy.

Analysts say LookSmart is a prime example of the type of site that stands the best chance of proving commercially viable: informative and inoffensive. Often viewed as a forum for the outrageous and unbelievable, the Web has got to do a better job of attracting mainstream America before it can realize its potential, they say.

"The Internet is already packed to the brim . . . but there are not a lot of condensed content sites," like those found on LookSmart, said company spokesman Niall Swan.

The site employs 23 editors to sift through several million sites for those it can deem "consumer-friendly." In this case, the consumer is the Reader's Digest purchaser.

The site now points to about 150,000 of the several million Web sites currently posted.