Before Google became the de facto search engine of the internet, the late ‘90s offered myriad of options for when you just wanted more information on stuff: Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Answers.com. There’s a good chance you haven’t thought of these websites recently, and that’s okay because until he was the CEO of About.com, Neil Vogel hadn’t thought much about his own website either.
That’s why Vogel tells Business Insider he’s going to shut the site down as of May 2nd. "I got a phone call from Joey Levin, who is the CEO of IAC [About.com Group’s parent company]. He asked, 'What do you think of About.com?'" Vogel told BI. "My answer — in perfect arrogance — was 'I don't.' Who thinks of About.com? Nobody."
But not all of About.com is going away necessarily. Vogel says he will take parts of the website and turn them into separate niche verticals, then announce a new name for the overarching brand at a conference in New Orleans. “A year ago we were a general interest site,” Vogel told The Drum in March. “We were not growing. In fact, we were kind of shrinking. We had great content, but we were doing the wrong thing.”
“We were not growing. In fact, we were kind of shrinking.”
Currently, the About.com Group runs four brands: VeryWell, Lifewire, The Spruce, and The Balance (covering health, technology, lifestyle and home, and personal finance, respectively.) The company is expected to launch a fifth brand, a travel-focused site called TripSavvy, later this spring. All five sites, Vogel says, will bet on traffic from search and optimize content to what people are Googling for — similar to how you might have heard of About.com in the first place. “This is either going to work and be a great success or we're going to crash the plane as we're flying it and this is going to be a horrible failure,” he told BI.
About.com launched in 1996 and hopped between several parent companies — it was first acquired by Prime Media in 2000 for a $690 million deal, then later sold to The New York Times Company in 2005 for $410 million. Finally, it ended up with IAC in 2012 for a further discounted price of $300 million.
Whatever Vogel ends up doing with About.com, he appears confident that it can’t get any less memorable. “I'm not going to be the guy who ruined About.com,” he said. “It's already ruined, so this is all upside here.”