In the world of mainstream media, there’s a lot of not unjustified worry about trading print dollars for digital dimes — or worse yet, digital pennies.
Yet, it is seemingly contradicted by the success of About.com, which new media commentator and former About.com consutant Jeff Jarvis wrote recently was “about the only bright spot” on the New York Times’ profit and loss statement.
According to the New York Times Company annual report for 2006, the NYT subsidiary About.com — one of the top 15 most visited websites that year with 47.5 milllion average unique monthly visitors worldwide — had revenues of $80.2 million or some 3% of the total $3.3 billion revenue pie. Its 2006 operating profit rose to $30.8 million from a restated $11.7 million for 2005 and compared to $317.2 million for the company’s News Media Group.
That’s 8.9% of the 2006 operating profit with just 3% of the revenues, which is the opposite of dollars for digital dimes. It’s actually more profitable than the old print franchise, so what gives?
Frankly, I’ve wondered for a while now just why About.com — with a lot of mediocre content — became so successful that the NYT was willing to pay $410 million for it in 2005. After all, it’s not exactly a difficult model to replicate. Then the other day, I noticed this referral to my Scottish Terrier and Dog News site and all I could think of was Geosign.
And I started to wonder if About.com’s success actually had very little to do with its content and a whole lot more to do with pages like these, which supposedly made Geosign annual revenues of $100 million plus. And, of course, that would explain Marshall Simmond’s seemingly inexplicable reputation as an SEO rockstar.
All this leads me to my final questions for today: Does anyone know how many of these pages About.com actually has and if its serious money is coming from parked domain-style pages as opposed to the content pages? I am really, truly stumped.