The New York Times Co.-owned property's Industry & Trade channel debuted with 50 verticals, including aviation, construction and media. If that sounds like VerticalNet, the Internet flameout that served more than 60 b-to-b verticals in the dot-com era, Seth Alpert, managing director for AdMedia Partners, says there's little similarity.
“From About.com's perspective, this is a low-cost attempt to increase their footprint and gain more advertising dollars,” he said. “They're taking their business model and extending it into a different area. They're not going to do anything they don't know how to do.”
“We didn't think about VerticalNet,” said Maya Avrasin, About.com's b-to-b editor, adding: “I don't think we are overextended in any way.”
“Through extensive research into the various market sectors, we noticed a growing group of professionals who are seeking valuable content and information to help them accomplish their goals that they weren't finding online,” said Michael Daecher, About.com's senior VP-content and guide operations, in a statement. “In addition to our internal analytics tools, we looked at each industry's competitive landscape, revenue projections and demographics to help narrow our focus.”
The Industry & Trade channel will build on About.com's approach of using how-to and other targeted evergreen content to optimize search traffic. In October, About.com had about 46 million unique users, according to comScore data.
About.com is a profitable business for the New York Times Co. In the third quarter of this year, the About Group generated $32.5 million in revenue, up 5.5% from the third quarter in 2009. In the same time frame, About Group's operating profit increased slightly, from $13.7 million to $13.9 million.
At the same time, the Times Co.'s digital revenue is experiencing slower growth. Overall digital revenue at the company is anticipated to increase about 10% in the fourth quarter after posting 14.6% growth in the third.
About.com's move into numerous b-to-b markets at the same time seems counter to the trend in b-to-b media, which has been for media companies to focus on fewer verticals and dive deeper into them.
“I'm not losing sleep about [About.com],” said Frank Anton, CEO of construction industry media company Hanley Wood. “The construction market is big,” he added. “It can support many information sources, including About.com; and, given the state of the market, good information is crucially important to builders, architects and others in the industry.”
Alpert speculated that About.com does not pose a significant menace to existing b-to-b media companies. “I think the only form of threat this poses is that it could end up sucking some ad dollars away—could,” he said.