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.
About.com is divided into topic sites, which are grouped into channels and cover diverse subjects such as home repair, pediatrics, model railroading, and weather. 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.
Compensation, and "creative accounting," has haunted About.com, and there has been at least one lawsuit regarding this.
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.
About.com was originally founded in 1996 as The Mining Company. The site was launched on April 21, 1997 by Scott Kurnit, owner of General Internet; Bill Day; and a group of other entrepreneurs in New York City. 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 offered expert Guides a minimum rate of $250 a month or one-third of the advertising 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 during the Internet bubble of using a simple word followed by dot-com as both site address and company name. The company was acquired by Primedia in 2000 in a deal that valued About at $690 million. In February 2005, The New York Times Company announced that it was buying About.com, a purchase that was completed in the first half of the year for $410 million. Google along with Yahoo, AskJeeves, and AOL were reportedly among the other bidders.
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