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

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 from 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.”