>>Are we to expect the About listings to disappear from MSN after Looksmart is dropped?
Highly unlikely. About also has a relationship with Inktomi, and is spidered quite regularly & thoroughly by them.
About pages have also been prevalent in MSN due to listings via Zeal.
it's true that most of About.com is less of a directory now, and more of a 'content' destination. Your best bet to 'get a listing' is to write to the editor of the particular section that covers your industry/topic, and see if you can offer them any guest articles, interview quotes, products to review, etc, in return for a link/byline within the feature.
Sprinks isn't necessarily a bad option. the ad copy usually shows up in Google Serps, and links may even get spidered. Not to mention that if you target your ads well, you can see some positive ROI.