Prepositionally inclined About wants to be your online guru. The company's flagship About.com hosts a network of topic-specific websites grouped into content channels such as arts, hobbies, and sports on more than 78,000 topics. About.com features nearly 3 million articles created by some 900 human guides, or "topical advisors" -- which About describes as the "heart and soul" of its business. The free site generates revenue from advertisers trying to reach the 75 million monthly visitors. The firm also operates consumer product review site ConsumerSearch.com and diet site CalorieCount.com; along with About.com they make up the About Group. IAC/InterActive owns the company, which is now part of IAC's Ask.com.
In 2012 IAC/Interactive acquired About from The New York Times Company for $300 million, and is using the purchase to boost its search holdings, which fall under its Ask.com website. The New York Times sold the business to focus on its core newspaper operations. It is also divested the business because the struggling About is suffering in the face of stiff competition from rivals such as Answers and Demand Media, both of which publish online information at a low cost in order to capitalize on search-driven advertising. In addition, About took a hit in 2011 when Google responded to charges that its search results heavily featured low-quality content, and changed its search algorithm as a result.
About Group accounted for about 6% of The New York Times' revenues. The sites generate revenues through cost-per-click advertising (sponsored links for which About Group is paid when a user clicks on the ad), display advertising, and e-commerce (including sales lead generation). Cost-per-click advertising, which in 2010 represented 57% of About Group's revenues, is principally derived from an arrangement with Google under which third-party advertising is placed on About Group's websites.
In order to invigorate the brand, in 2011 About added 200 topic sites to About.com. It also doubled its video content. It additionally created a Spanish-language website (About en Español) to reach a wider audience. Also in 2011 About unloaded UCompareHealthCare.com, which allowed consumers to rate and review doctors. About had purchased the site in 2007 in order to bolster its health vertical, a goal "which it accomplished" according to its report of the divestiture.
The New York Times spent $410 million to buy About from publisher PRIMEDIA in 2005. At the time, the acquisition was the newspaper publisher's first big Internet deal designed to take advantage of the growing online advertising market. After the deal closed, About expanded its user base by acquiring CalorieCount.com in 2006 and ConsumerSearch.com in 2007. The company next expanded internationally through the 2008 launch of About China (abang.com).