Wednesday, 15 October 2008

About.com





Please find below press release from the NYTCompany about not very interesting new stuff at About.com.

I'm not a heavy About.com user, it is has to be said. I've looked at it this year, out of interest, but I've never actually gone to it to find out About something. I wonder why this is? Must reflect more but I think they're are things that prevent me, conciously or subconciously.

a) they're not leveraging the NYT brand and no credibility equity has been transferred from my devotion to all things NYT to anything about.com;

b) the logo looks like its made by a graphic designer who doesn't know much about graphic design and to my particular eye says 'amateur', 'cheap' low quality citizen journalism;

c) the fact they only have 750 experts who are constantly referred to as 'REAL PEOPLE' unlike say, real academics, real researchers, real journalists or even real experts. (cf Wikipedia) Of those 750 experts only 20 of them have been named Forbes “Best of Web,” in 8 years. By industry standards this may be good but as a consumer it doesn't seem to be enough, for me at least. Of their 57 million users, only 8 million have thought the stuff good enough to subscribe. I know you can argue this is a very good conversion rate, as a business, but as a consumer it doesn't instill me with confidence.

d) any strapline that uses such a strong negative (Guidance. Not Guesswork.) usually leaves a take out that the lady doth protest too much and it isn't offering that much guidance - which is a weak abstract noun for a brand statement - and could well involve a fair amount of guess work;

e) an Internet business like this surely needs to be global and although I haven't done a thorough analysis of their topics or experts, my sense is that both are predominantly American focussed (e.g for example, and not a particularly good one, but you get the drift, there is no topic for Brazil or Australia but there is about Brazil and Australia Travel) and it's all in English. (Save About China)

f) the crappy advertising that pops up.


That all said it is one of the webs top 15 content sites, reaching 38 million unique visitors each month in U.S.* and 57 million globally.** (About.com metrics, bien sur).

Of those 19 million 'foreigners' who use it may I refer them to User Promise No. 5 of the About.com's 6 user promises, which is "We'll speak your language".


If you'd like to read more about About.com scroll down past the latest gripping installment from it's development and have a look at Channels and Topics, plus some other stuff.



About.com Health Expands Its Online Community with Calorie Count Groups
NEW YORK, Oct 14, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) --
About.com Health (www.about.com/health), which is among the top three consumer health Web sites in the U.S. (September 2008 Nielsen Online), announced today the launch of Calorie Count Groups, a free online social dieting network that allows members to connect and communicate about topics of interest, and motivate each other to achieve health and weight goals. Calorie Count Groups is the latest addition to About.com Health's Calorie Count Web site, which provides guidance and support to dieters, information on foods, exercise programs and dieting tools. Calorie Count passed the one million member mark in August.
"More and more people are embracing social dieting as an effective method of weight loss and maintenance," said Igor Lebovic, director,
Calorie Count. "Calorie Count Groups allows members to benefit from the knowledge and experience of others and provides an environment through which they can share tips and lend support."
Using
Calorie Count Groups, members can also create their own public or private groups and connect with people who share similar interests, live in nearby neighborhoods or have common goals. Thus far, approximately 26,000 Calorie Count members have joinedmore than 300 Groups in categories such as Motivation and Challenges, Foods and Cooking, and Losing or Gaining Weight, among others.
Since 2005,
Calorie Count members have collectively lost over 1.3 million pounds - the equivalent of 85 adult elephants, nine Boeing 737 aircrafts and almost three Statues of Liberty.
About About.com
Founded in 1996, About.com is one of the Web's leading producers of original content. The site's expert Guides provide users with accurate and unbiased information to help them live happier, healthier and more successful lives.
In March 2005, About.com was acquired by The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), a leading media company with 2007 revenues of $3.2 billion, which includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 16 other daily newspapers, WQXR-FM and more than 50 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com. The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.
This press release can be downloaded from www.nytco.com
SOURCE: The New York Times Company
About.com Erica McDonald, 212-204-1724
emcdonald@about.com






READY FOR THE INTERNET LIKE NEVER BEFORE
About.com is an online neighborhood of hundreds of helpful experts, eager to share their wealth of knowledge with visitors.

Every month, over 60 million people* visit us for help with everything from health care and parenting issues to advice on travel, cooking, technology, hobbies and more. And we offer solutions in the form of over two million hand-crafted, original articles, recipes, product reviews, videos, tutorials and more.

All created by our network of expert 'Guides' - real people who, like all good neighbors, help others so that everyone's life gets just a little better.

Founded in 1996, About.com was acquired in March 2005 by The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT). Today, About.com is recognized as a top 15 content site and one of the largest producers of original content on the Web.

ABOUT.COM LEADS THE WAY




  • About.com is America's single largest developer of original content on the Web. Offering almost 2 million pieces of original content spanning 21 diverse channels.


  • Only About.com features expert Guides. With a network of 750 Guides, About.com provides practical solutions to everyday problems across thousands of topics. Consistently providing rich and relevant content and guiding key decision, Guides turn About.com into a trusted community.


  • About.com is a top 15 content site. Reaching 38 million unique visitors each month in U.S.* and 57 million globally.**


  • About.com is the answer or end result for many Internet searches as well as a "direct destination" for loyal users.
    About.com continually maintains its relevance to users.


  • About.com covers 70,000 topics, and adds more than 6,000 pieces of new content each week.


  • About.com offers a valuable contextual environment. Offering unique Guide-based content and a robust online experience, About.com provides a leading means for advertisers to surround their message with relevant content and is a powerful driver of an enhanced brand experience.



ABOUT.COM FINANCIALS


Source: http://www.nytco.com/pdf/annual_2007/mda.pdf





"The About Group principally generates revenues from display advertising, that is relevant to its adjacent content, cost-per-click advertising (sponsored links for which the About Group is paid when a user clicks on an ad), and e-commerce (including sales lead generation). Almost all of its revenues (95% in 2007) are derived from the sale of advertisements (display and cost-per-click advertising). Display advertising accounted for 51% of the About Group's total advertising revenues."

About.com accounted for just 3% (US$102.7 million) of the NYT Company's 2007 total revenues of US$3.195 billion. (By comparison the NYTMG - accounted for 64% - basically the NYT - and the NEMG - basically the Boston Globe - accounted for 19%; the Regionals delivered 14%.) That was a 28% increase over 2006 and 82% over 2005. So it's revenue base isn't far off the IHT in a good year, or more to the point and more exactly, the revenue base of the IHT isn't that far off About.com when the IHT has a good year.

The difference however is that the NYT paid cUS$50-70million dollars for 50% of the IHT but paid US$410 million for 100% of About.com in March 2005. At that time About.com had 57,000 topics and a library of 1.2 million pieces of content and had, according to Nielsen//NetRatings 29 million unique users nationally and 47 million worldwide in October 2005. Today those figures have increased (in 3 years) to 38 and 57 million respectively.

I'll leave you to judge:



a) whether you think those growth figures are good, bad or indifferent given the explosive growth rates we've seen in other Internet businesses, especially social-networking sites;



b) where the IHT could be today if that US$410 million had been poured into the IHT, iht.com, reporters, thickening the book and redesigning it and marketing it from March 2005.



Now let's take a look at the profitability of About.com

In 2007 it's costs were US$68 million, a profit of, give or take, US$ 34 million. That's not bad going on a revenue base of US$102 million and on that front, the IHT can't even touch it. In fact, I don't think the IHT has been profitable since it was fully acquired by the NYTCompany


However, the About.com cost trend isn't terrific. Up 37% over 2006, up 53% over 2005 and some would argue that the revenue growth, impressive as it may look (28% increase over 2006) was in fact off a low base and these big number revenue growth rates need to be continued for years to start getting near the print properties. And that is not a given.


There are of course a whole number of variables at play in these cost growths (compensation, content and amortization cost increases primarily due, we are told, to new initiatives and acquisition costs in 2007). What those acquisitions brought with them in increased revenue the NYT Company is less than clear on. They do say that the 2007 revenue increase was primarily due to increased ad revenue (from About.com or the new acquisitions the language does not make clear, saying that 'in addition, revenues increased due to the About.com acquisitions'.)




Alors, I could bang on about about but for now I have had about enough.

Feel free to explore many of the interesting subjects in the experts hands of REAL people.



About About.com Guidance. Not Guesswork

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READ AN ALTERNATIVE IHT DAILY NARRATIVE AT
A PLACE IN THE AUVERGNE

International Herald Tribune
IHT
New York Times
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Vacation /Business Trip Furnished Apartment in Paris




6 comments:

Anonymous said...

A lot of blah blah blah that basically says "look at me! I'm a poorly paid reporter who has nothing better to do than post press releases and spew my (badly written) jealousy!" Geez. No wonder newspapers are going under with this kind of tripe being touted as "original journalism".

Anonymous said...

Lots of sour grapes and vitriol because of a simple PR piece the likes of which all media groups send out regularly?



Seems to me that you're making much to big a flap of this, but if you have the time to spare...



As for the About's being in English, the company is American, as are the NY Times and the IHT whose readers you say you write for. And English is still, for better or worse, the Lingua Franca of the Web. Or are you suggesting we all switch to something else, e.g. Latin?



Merideth

containergardener said...

I have been the container gardening “guide” for About.com for almost 6 months. During that time I have been incredibly impressed by the quality of the writing and expertise of my fellow guides. The editors I work with have also impressed me – they are experienced and dedicated.

I don’t know if you have been to About.com recently, but there has been a serious re-design, which is clean and easy to navigate. Every site on the network is different and yes, some are better than others, but with 750 sites to choose from, it is a great resource with some really interesting content written by people who are rigorously screened and trained before they are given a site.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? I LOVE About.com!

Anonymous said...

maybe they should just close up shop then...chump.

Top10 said...

Sorry, I am bit late for discussion :) still..
I DID read ALL the post and i still love About.com!!!

They are great in their job, they give quality and value! All other doesn't matter.