About.com announced on Tuesday that Neil Vogel, founder of the best-of-the-internet “Webby Awards,” will be the company’s new CEO. His immediate tasks will be to increase the site’s brand recognition and to persuade people to spend more time engaging with the content produced by About.com’s more than 900 expert “guides.”
Vogel arrives eight months after the New York Times Company sold About.com to IAC, an internet conglomerate best known for the Ask.com brand. Prior to the sale, About.com — which depends heavily on search for its traffic — suffered a drop in business when Google downgraded its content in its search algorithm.
In a phone interview, Vogel said the Google setback was overblown and About.com is humming along at a profitable pace on the basis of its traditional display and automated ad business. He also claimed that ad prices have stayed strong and that the existing “monetization model is very good.”
Vogel said his immediate plans are to grow traffic and to make the site flashier along the lines of BuzzFeed or Pinterest. He also says the site has great content but low name recognition.
“There’s clearly some design things to make this site more compelling,” he said, adding that there was a lot of potential on the “social side” but that the same social strategies don’t work for all content.
Whatever strategy Vogel chooses, he has no shortage of content with which to work. It will be interesting to see what a CEO with a show business streak does to spice up a website that covers everything from bankruptcy to baseball to Buddhism.