About.com is rebranding as Dotdash.
Photo credit: Dotdash

Flooding the web with content doesn't sell anymore.

By Adam Lashinsky
May 2, 2017

I love stories of reinvention. That’s why I was drawn to a short piece in The Wall Street Journal about a Web 1.0 company called About.com changing its name to Dotdash.

I knew right away there was something vaguely Morse Code-ish about the name. When I was a little boy I learned only one bit of Morse Code, that dot-dot-dot-dash stood for V as in victory. It turns out that dot-dash is the later A, a play on About.com’s now former name.

As for the new Dotdash, it’s a collection of web sites focused on niche subjects. These include The Balance for personal finance, Verywell for health, and so on. As a an employee of a “title”—as we like to say these days rather than magazine—that is highly focused on a single subject, business, I get the company’s strategy. About.com was about answers to random questions. The new site, owned by IAC, doesn’t want to be random anymore.

More radical still, Dotdash CEO Neil Vogel says the company will pursue a less-is-more strategy. When we met recently he explained to me that About.com’s massive inventory of stale stories wasn’t serving it well anymore. What performs best on the search-engine-optimized and social-media-juiced Internet today are a few good stories. Content mills churn out commoditized crap; focused sites produce higher-valued information.

The Journal has a nice synopsis of 20-year-old About.com’s one-way valuation trajectory over the years: $690 million when Primedia bought it, $410 million when The New York Times acquired it, and $300 million when IAC snapped it up.

The niftiest reinvention of all would be printing a Dotdash valuation that increases.

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