About.com

About.com

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Encyclopedia
About.com is an online source for original information and advice. It is written in English, and is aimed primarily at North Americans. It is owned by The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company is an American media company best known as the publisher of its namesake, The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. has served as Chairman of the Board since 1997. It is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City....

.

About.com is divided into topic sites, which are grouped into channels and cover diverse subjects such as home repair
Home repair
Home repair involves the diagnosis and resolution of problems in a home, and is related to home maintenance to avoid such problems. Many types of repairs are "do it yourself" projects, while others may be so complicated, time-consuming or risky as to suggest the assistance of a qualified handyman,...

, pediatrics
Pediatrics
Pediatrics or paediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. A medical practitioner who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician or paediatrician...

, model railroading, English grammar
English grammar
English grammar is the body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the English language. This includes the structure of words, phrases, clauses and sentences...

, and weather
Weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

. The content is written by a network of writers, referred to as Guides, who have experience in the subject they look after. Each Guide looks after one subject only, and is the exclusive writer for that subject. Content on the site can vary between articles, online courses, interactive quizzes, videos and so forth.

Guides are compensated with a base stipend plus bonuses for increased traffic; according to About.com, several guides are averaging over $100,000 per year, although the exact number is not disclosed.

Content



The Guides' sites consist of articles or commentaries written by the Guides as well as links to pertinent websites related to their topic. Some sites have dictionaries, how-to lessons, and free eCourses. For example, the sites on major European languages have comprehensive lessons illustrated by audio files recorded by the Guides themselves.

Each Guide's site has at least one forum, provided at the Advanced level (with HTML capability and uploading), for registered users. Site visitors may subscribe to free email newsletters for each site. Some Guides participate daily at the forum.

The pages within the site contain extensive hyperlinks.

History


About.com was originally founded in 1996 as The Mining Company. The site was launched on April 21, 1997 by Scott Kurnit
Scott Kurnit
Scott P. Kurnit is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor inmedia and technology.-Early career:After graduating from Hampshire College with a BA in Communications, Kurnitbecame a Program Director at WGBY-TV He was the youngest program director...

, owner of General Internet; Bill Day; and a group of other entrepreneurs in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. The original goal was to maintain 1,800 topic areas, but after five years of operation, this number was eventually reduced to 700. The original business plan
Business plan
A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons why they are believed attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals....

 offered expert Guides a minimum rate of $250 a month or one-third of the advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 revenue generated within their topic area. The Mining Company also employed around 50 full-time staff for administration, advertising sales and the overall site design work.

The company changed its name to About, Inc. on May 17, 1999, and the website address from miningco.com to about.com. The renaming was partly to broaden the appeal of the site and the instant brand equity
Brand equity
Brand equity is the marketing effects and outcomes that accrue to a product with its brand name compared with those that would accrue if the same product did not have the brand name. Fact of the well-known brand name is that, the company can sometimes charge premium prices from the consumer . And,...

 during the Internet bubble of using a simple word followed by dot-com
.com
The domain name com is a generic top-level domain in the Domain Name System of the Internet. Its name is derived from commercial, indicating its original intended purpose for domains registered by commercial organizations...

 as both site address and company name. The company was acquired by Primedia
Primedia
PRIMEDIA Inc. is privately held American media company fully owned by TPG Capital.Consumer Source Inc. is the sole operating division of PRIMEDIA and helps millions of consumers find apartments, houses for rent, and new homes for sale through its Internet, mobile, and print products...

 in 2000 in a deal that valued About at $690 million. In February 2005, The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company is an American media company best known as the publisher of its namesake, The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. has served as Chairman of the Board since 1997. It is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City....

 announced that it was buying About.com, a purchase that was completed in the first half of the year for $410 million. Google
Google
Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program...

 along with Yahoo
Yahoo!
Yahoo! Inc. is an American multinational internet corporation headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, United States. The company is perhaps best known for its web portal, search engine , Yahoo! Directory, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Groups, Yahoo! Answers, advertising, online mapping ,...

, AskJeeves
Ask.com
Ask is a Q&A focused search engine founded in 1996 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen in Berkeley, California. The original software was implemented by Gary Chevsky from his own design. Warthen, Chevsky, Justin Grant, and others built the early AskJeeves.com website around that core engine...

, and AOL
AOL
AOL Inc. is an American global Internet services and media company. AOL is headquartered at 770 Broadway in New York. Founded in 1983 as Control Video Corporation, it has franchised its services to companies in several nations around the world or set up international versions of its services...

 were reportedly among the other bidders.

About.com eliminated over 40% of its topic-sites in 2002. Most of the eliminated sites were not merged, and their contents are no longer accessible to the general public. However, the rights to the material remained with the original authors and some of it has appeared on other websites.

In May 2005, The New York Times Company named Scott Meyer as president and CEO
Chief executive officer
A chief executive officer , managing director , Executive Director for non-profit organizations, or chief executive is the highest-ranking corporate officer or administrator in charge of total management of an organization...

 of About.com. On May 7, 2007, About.com acquired ConsumerSearch
ConsumerSearch
ConsumerSearch is an English-language search engine for consumer product reviews, plus a database of reports on consumer products and services, published and updated only online. ConsumerSearch does not review products and services directly, nor does the site publish reviews from users...

 for $33 million. In January 2008, the site's first fully owned foreign venture, the China-based Abang.com, debuted. This marked the first full-owned editorial product by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

to enter China. About.com said it would obey all laws and sidestepped the issue of censorship by saying that the chosen topics were not controversial to the government of China.

In June 2008, The New York Times Company named Cella M. Irvine as CEO
Chief executive officer
A chief executive officer , managing director , Executive Director for non-profit organizations, or chief executive is the highest-ranking corporate officer or administrator in charge of total management of an organization...

 of the About Group. Irvine's appointment fills a seat that had been empty since March 2008 when CEO Scott Meyer left to head another company.

The domain about.com attracted at least 448 million visitors annually by 2008, according to an estimate by Compete.com
Compete.com
Compete.com is a web traffic analysis service of Compete, Inc. which operates in the United States and publishes the approximate number of global visitors to the top 1,000,000 web sites in the world...

, a web traffic analysis service.