February 17, 2005

About dot What!?

News out today that the New York Times is acquiring About.com for a reported $410 million from Primedia, who paid $690 million for it back in 2000.

Good grief.

About.com has always been a mystery to me. I just don't see the value. Too many blinking ads, poor layout and formatting, very little relevant content --- it's a site I would never actually click through to explore. When I wind up at About.com, which would usually be by mistake by clicking on a promising Google search result, I always turn around and leave.

What in the world would the New York Times want with them? First of all, About.com is so deeply old school, very 90s. Do we need an About.com in the era of Wikipedia and Google, to name but two more sophisticated services?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of The Times Co. this week and learn what method there is in their madness . . .

Posted by brian at February 17, 2005 04:17 PM


I think a site like About.com is important in an age of Google. About.com is about direction. It has category experts that filter through the content for you and get you the most relevent information in an easy to access manner. If I'm interested in, say, baking bread, I can either search Goolge for a couple of hours trying to find some details or relevent sites, or go to About.com and have all the relevent links I really need right there for me.

Of course About.com doesn't do this at all. It's not easy to view the content because it's covered with ads and it's hard to tell what's content and what's not, the "experts" usually aren't, and it uses so many frames and popups that the navigation is unuseable. In that way, I totally agree with you.

But, you know, other than that...

If it was actually run properly, I think it would be very useful. It could be a great place to go to if you were interested in a subject but had no idea where to start.

Posted by: Joe at February 18, 2005 05:32 AM

Maybe they want the name and could care less about the current site content. It's a decent domain and already has market awareness.

Posted by: Scott at February 22, 2005 07:46 AM

I do the exact same thing when I stumble into an about.com site. The scrolling ads are the worst - you can run, but you can't scroll the hell away from them! Maybe NYT will strip it down and clean it up.

Posted by: StarGazer at February 22, 2005 09:22 AM

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