About.com’s New CEO On How To Stay Relevant

Posted: May 7, 2013 in Startup, Technology

20130507-094500.jpg. Even with 84 million uniques each month, About.com
tends to fly under the radar. But there is change afoot
since IAC bought out About.com from the New York
Times last year, most notably the appointment of Neil
Vogel as CEO. We brought in Vogel, as well as Chief
Strategy Officer Scott Kim (who also served as interim CEO for the past few months), to discuss how
About might be changing in the foreseeable future. Neil has only been at About for a little over a month,
but he has big plans. It’s a three-pronged approach
really, involving social, mobile, and user experience. Where social is concerned, Vogel mentioned that
About hasn’t ever given the vertical any “water or
sunlight,” which means it’s a huge opportunity to
leverage thousands of expert guides (content
producers) and the massive flood of traffic coming to
the site each month. He also revealed that 25 percent of About’s mobile
traffic comes via mobile, and “it’s not cannibalistic
traffic either, it’s a clear growth over the desktop
traffic we’re seeing.” Confusing math aside, Kim
explained that the mobile strategy doesn’t involve an
app, since SEO is the primary driver of traffic to About. “The goal with mobile is the same as desktop, which
means that we need to have the best possible user
experience so people will travel throughout the site,”
said Kim. I asked if SEO was enough for About, or if there are
plans to bring users in more directly. “SEO is a thing now. As the internet evolves, SEO
will become less and less of a thing as Google and
Bing are getting better and better at what they do,”
said Vogel. “They want to give you the best content
possible when you want to solve a problem, and we
have great content.” More important than how the consumer gets there,
Vogel and Kim are concerned with keeping the user
there. According to the dynamic duo, the plan isn’t a
huge, monumental redesign. “It’ll be 1,000 small things we do,” said Vogel. “If you
look at what we’re doing 12 months from now next to
where we are today, it will look like we did something
drastic, but we didn’t. We’re going to do it one new
thing at a time.” After considering one of About’s greatest challenges,
this plan actually seems much more logical. See,
About is one of the top medical sites on the web, and
it’s also one of the top food sites on the web. Vogel
explained that it’s hard to get inspiration from
competitors when you compete in so many verticals. “The good news is there are a lot of ideas,” he said.
“And the bad news is there are a lot of ideas.”


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