SiteSherpa Plays Hide-and-Seek

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Web navigation company SiteSherpa used a New York manhunt to increase downloads of its software.


From Nov. 29 to Dec. 15, Hide/Seek/NYC, a reality-based game set in New York, turned three "fugitives" against one another and the public. As the fugitives raced to complete tasks and evade capture, viewers tracked them on www.hideseeknyc.com.


"We integrate site travel into the game, giving clues on the whereabouts of a fugitive or to provide more information to help you participate in the game by using SiteSherpa," said Michael Basta, vice president of business development and marketing at SiteSherpa. "It is a stand-alone event, but it does promote our flagship product, which is the Web Travel Companion."


Web Travel Companion, SiteSherpa's free, downloadable software, available soon at www.sitesherpa.com, provided participants with key tidbits needed to track the final fugitive and win $10,000.


"It's an attractive number and something that will certainly get you out on the street," Basta said regarding the grand-prize purse. "It's not 'Survivor's' million or grab.com's billion, but we think participants will have a much better chance of winning this."


Web Travel Companion, compiled by SiteSherpa's editorial team, is designed to enhance the Internet surfing experience by providing exclusive background information on Web sites. Relevant links and forums to share opinions are also a part of the service.


"It enhances the navigation experience," Basta said. "You surf from site to site, and it incorporates the left-hand side of your browser and refreshes information based on the URL you are visiting. It is a way to take a journalistic, editorial look at Web sites."


To generate interest and cast the fugitives for Hide/Seek/NYC, SiteSherpa sent an e-mail describing the game to contacts within New York's Silicon Alley. Razorfish, Insound.com and About.com were among the recipients.


"True to the nature of the Web and e-mail, it spread from inbox to inbox," Basta said. "We received several hundred responses from people wanting to be the fugitive."


SiteSherpa does not have projections for the game or traffic goals for the Web site. Nor does the company intend to use information gathered from the game for a direct marketing campaign. "The game is for the excitement, viewership and participation to build on the 17 days as they progress," Basta said.


In the future, people might be charged on a click-through basis while using Web Travel Companion, based on how much information they crave on a particular Web site, he said.


The Web Travel Companion is not the first software designed to provide additional information about sites. Alexa.com, bought by Amazon.com in April, offers free, downloadable software that works in conjunction with Web browsers.


Alexa operates in a toolbar or frame attached to the browser and ranks the popularity of Web sites, based on number of visits to Alexa. It also informs users of related sites and offers contact details if available. Like SiteSherpa's Web Travel Companion, reader reviews and ratings factor into the Alexa equation
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