Dotdash (formerly About.com) is an American Internet-based network of
content that publishes articles and videos about various subjects on
its "topic sites", of which there are nearly 1,000. It is operated
by About, Inc. (formerly The Mining Company, MiningCo.com, Inc., and
About.com, Inc.). The website competes with other online resource
sites and encyclopedias. By March 2014, 61,428,000 unique visitors
were registered by comScore for About.com, making it the
16th-most-visited online property during that month. As of
Dotdash is the property of IAC, owner of
numerous other online brands, and its revenue is generated by
1.1 1997–2005: launch, renaming, Primedia acquisition
1.2 2005–2012: Times Co. acquisition, Abang.com, About en Español
1.3 2012–2017: IAC acquisition, Neil Vogel appointment, relaunch
1.4 2017–present: closure and rebranding
3 External links
1997–2005: launch, renaming, Primedia acquisition
Founded in 1996 as The Mining Company, the site was launched on April
21, 1997, by Scott Kurnit, owner of General Internet, Bill Day, and a
group of other entrepreneurs in New York City. The original goal
was to maintain 1,800 topic areas, but after five years of operation,
this number was reduced to around 700.
The company changed its name to "About Inc.", and the website address
from "miningco.com" to "about.com" in May 1999. The company was
acquired by Primedia, Inc. in 2000 through a deal valued at
US$690 million, whereby Primedia swapped 45.2 million shares
for About, Inc.'s 18.1 million shares. At the time of the
acquisition announcement, About Inc. was measured at
US$133 million in cash and no debt (Sept. 30, 2000), while the
Media Metrix company tallied 21 million unique monthly
visitors—making it the seventh-most-visited "network of sites" at
the time—a network of over 700 topic sites, sorted into 36 areas and
50,000 subjects, and approximately 4,000 advertisers. Following the
purchase, which was finalized in the first quarter of 2001, the
combined company was called "Primedia" and Kurnit remained chief
executive officer (CEO).
2005–2012: Times Co. acquisition, Abang.com, About en Español
In February 2005,
The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company (Times Co.) announced it
was buying About.com, a purchase that was completed in the
first half of the year for US$410 million.
Google and Yahoo
were reportedly among the other bidders. Following the Times Co.
acquisition, Peter C. Horan was appointed as About Inc.'s president
and CEO, but he was soon replaced by Scott Meyer in May 2005.
In March 2007, About.com's patronage was measured at 33.5 million
unique visitors. On May 7, 2007, About Inc. acquired
ConsumerSearch.com—a site that generated 3 million unique
monthly visitors during the first quarter of 2007—for
US$33 million in cash following two other purchases that were
made in the preceding eight-month period: UCompareHealthCare.com and
Initially conceived of in January 2007, About.com's first fully owned
foreign venture, the China-based Abang.com, debuted in December
2007. At the time of the launch, the company had a Japan-based
online entity, Allabout.co.jp, but it functioned under a licensing
agreement. By January 2008, the China site consisted of around 25
employees, as well as 80 guides who were responsible for article
production within seven categories: Fashion, Food, Health, Hobbies,
Pets, Digital, and Travel. As part of the localization process, the
China initiative—led by Matt Roberts, who became the CEO of
Abang.com, and Wen-Wei Wang, the vice president of technology for the
launch—was named "Abang" because the Chinese character "bang" refers
to the concept of a group or community.
The About Group generated US$102.7 million in 2007, which
represented a 135-percent increase from the time of the Times Co.
acquisition. Meyer stepped down from the chief executive role in March
2008 and was replaced by Cella Irvine, who previously worked for
Hearst Corp. and Microsoft Corp. In April 2011, Irvine launched
the About en Español website, which was About's first-ever
Spanish-language channel and initially featured nine topics, including
movies and makeup, that were to be expanded by around 100 by the start
of 2012. The launch was part of an overall strategy that included a
redesigned About.com homepage, a doubling of the number of "how-to"
and do-it-yourself videos on About.com's 24 channels, and new outlets
on About.com for advertisers.
The significant impact of the global financial crisis upon online
advertising was experienced shortly after Irvine's appointment and,
despite her focus on video content and
Hispanic consumers, she was
removed from the CEO role after three years and three consecutive
quarters in which revenue decreased. Martin Nisenholtz, SVP of digital
operations, temporarily replaced Irvine following her departure in May
In July 2011, Darline Jean was named CEO of the About Group, after the
company's second-quarter revenues totaled US$27.8 million. Jean
previously served as About's chief financial officer (CFO) and her new
appointment became effective on September 1, 2011.
2012–2017: IAC acquisition, Neil Vogel appointment, relaunch
A media report published in August 2012 indicated that
reached a preliminary agreement to acquire About.com for
US$270 million. However, on August 26, Barry Diller's IAC
announced that it would acquire About.com instead for
US$300 million in cash. A source for the TechCrunch
publication later confirmed that Answers.com's offer was reportedly
valued at US$270 million, but consisted of debt and equity in
In the corresponding press release, IAC explained that the acquisition
will help bolster and accompany its existing properties, such as the
Ask.com web search engine. Jean fulfilled her role as chief
executive during the transition period, while ownership was
transferred to IAC, and then left About shortly after the sale was
finalized. At the time of the IAC acquisition, which was signed on
August 26, 2012, About.com consisted of nearly 1,000 topic sites and
over three million unique articles, while, in traffic terms, Alexa
ranked the site as number 37 in the U.S. and 80 in the global
On April 2, 2013, Neil Vogel became the new CEO of About.com. Up until
March 2003, Vogel was a key executive member of the marketing and
media company Alloy Inc., a role that he left to cofound the
Recognition Media marketing business that is responsible for producing
Webby Award event, as well as the Internet Week NY and
Europe events. Vogel was selected by Business Insider for its 2012
"The Coolest People In New York Tech This Year" list, for his work as
a Venture Partner of FirstMark Capital. As of May 2013,
About.com was receiving about 84 million unique monthly
By mid-July 2013, further executive appointments were made: Scott Kim
was transferred from
Ask.com to become About's chief operating officer
(COO), Alex Ellerson, formerly of
Google and Yahoo!, was appointed as
senior vice president (SVP) of Content; and Matthew Knell became vice
president (VP) of social media and community strategy after leaving
Following his appointment, Vogel's overall plan for About focused on
social, mobile, and user experience, with an emphasis on increasing
the amount of time that users remain on the site, rather than
attracting people in the first instance. Vogel also stressed the
importance of monetization in his numerous post-appointment interviews
and he included a summary of About's revenue model as part of his
discussion of the future with Bloomberg:
[We make money] one way, in general: we're advertising-supported. And
that's monetized two ways: we do a lot of display advertising, and we
do a lot of people clicking on links that we get paid for from Google
and from others ... If we have all this traffic, and we have all this
content, if we can make people engage content more, and spend more
time here [About.com], and do more things, we're going to have more
page views and much more of an opportunity to monetize About.
Vogel further explained that IAC has been able to create "compelling"
content that manages to successfully engage Internet users, while
About's content, in particular, is favored by the
engine. Furthermore, Vogel stated that native advertising is a
marketing initiative that he would like to explore with caution, as
"it’s a really big opportunity to let marketers talk to our audience
in the voice that they’re already comfortable with."
In April 2014, Vogel revealed to the media that the About.com team had
grown from 100 employees to 176, and the number of site contributors
had increased by 20 percent. In terms of the website, the company's
developers updated the backend technology so that it is capable of
handling a greater degree of interactivity at the front end, while a
major emphasis was placed on responsive web design, as the traffic
from mobile devices and tablets was measured at nearly 40 percent.
According to About's online media kit,[better source needed]
nearly 1,000 "Experts" (freelance writers) contribute to the site by
writing on various topics, including healthcare and travel.
The About.com website was relaunched in September 2014, following a
significant redesign that expanded upon the new homepage that debuted
in July 2014. Based on an analysis of the needs of both users and
advertisers, the redesign sought to create an improved user experience
and facilitate social sharing, including the addition of social media
buttons that were not featured at the time of Vogel's appointment.
The company also plans to use a newly created video-production studio
to deliver a larger volume of corresponding content in 2015. About's
chief revenue officer (CRO) Brian Colbert explained to the media in
September 2014: "We are judging the effectiveness and success of the
redesign through engagement. We want people to visit more often, stick
around longer and do more on the site."
2017–present: closure and rebranding
On May 2, 2017, IAC announced that they had renamed About.com to
Dotdash, after about a year of transition. CEO Neil Vogel said
that the company had lost mind share, and needed to change their
marketing strategy. The company elected to refocus on vertical
markets through its niche websites: The Balance (personal finance),
Lifewire (consumer electronics), The Spruce (home and food), VeryWell
(health), TripSavvy (travel), and ThoughtCo (education).
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