CEO two years ago, the explainer site was on the path to irrelevancy.
The 18-year-old website owned by IAC wa s one of the first digital media properties. With how-to articles written by 1,000 expert contributors, it’s amassed an enormous US readership of 84 million unique visitors in January (comScore) mostly through search.
But it was languishing. Built on old technology, it had no recognizable brand, no strategy, and no aspirations for itself.
How do you revitalize an aging behemoth? A little bit at a time.
Vogel, who cofounded the popular Webby Awards and previously worked for Alloy Media , talks to Business Insider about relaunching the site last fall, his incremental improvement plan of getting 1% better each week, and the unexpected challenge of trying to change the company’s culture.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
BUSINESS INSIDER: For the past two years, you’ve been working to reboot About.com. What did you want to change?
NEIL VOGEL: We had some very unique challenges. The website was old. The technology was old, and the way we looked at the market wasn’t modern. We had a giant company — we’re a top-20 website — but there wasn’t much of a culture. We were the answer to your search question, but that’s all we aspired to be. There was no future possible where we were before.
NV: We’ve rewritten every line of code, rebuilt the website from scratch, and relaunched in September. We wanted to bring a premium publisher experience to our content, which is evergreen, explainer content by incredible experts.
NV: The site looks better. We’re seeing return visits improve. People are staying 10% to 15% longer and looking at more things. If you believe the math, people like us 15% more than they did before. We’re getting the premium advertisers, cracking the Fortune 500 marketers that wouldn’t touch us before.