|Type of site||online resource|
|Owner||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.
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.
About.com employs strict editorial guidelines for all of the content that appears on its site. All content on About.com is overseen by a team of editors, who review materials for relevance and accuracy. New health content on About.com is reviewed and checked for accuracy by a group of physicians and a medical director, which includes 25 MDs.
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 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!, Ask.com, and AOL were reportedly among the other bidders.
About.com eliminated over 40% of its topic-sites in 2002. Most of the eliminated sites are not merged, and their contents are no longer accessible to the general public. However, the rights to the material remained with the original authors and some of it has reappeared on other websites.
In May 2005, The New York Times Company named Scott Meyer as president & CEO of About.com.
In January 2008, the site's first fully-owned foreign venture, the China-based Abang.com, debuted. This marked the first full-owned editorial product by The New York Times to enter China. About.com said it would obey all laws and sidestepped the issue of censorship by saying that the chosen topics were not controversial to the government of China.