NY Times: It’s All About.com

The Grey Lady will add a Web content pioneer to the fold, with the acquisition of About.com. The New York Times Company will buy the Web guide from Primedia for $410 million in cash, the companies said on Thursday.

According to a New York Times report on Feb. 8 — Google , Yahoo and Ask Jeeves also bid for the company, which Primedia acquired in 2000.

About.com’s model is a precursor to blogs. Its 500 paid experts manage topic-centric Web portals that combine original content with Web links. Primedia, the publisher of 300 products, brought in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2003. But it failed to find synergy between the Web product and its magazines.

“Because About.com is completely distinct from Primedia’s other Web sites, its sale enables us to further focus on growing the online extensions of our outstanding portfolio of targeted brands reaching highly engaged, high-value audiences,” Kelly Conlin, Primedia’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

The New York Times Company operates several properties, including NYTimes.com, which charges for archived content, and Boston.com. The company said NYTimes.com alone generates 350 million average monthly page views.

The Times said it wanted About.com to extend its reach among Internet users, diversify its online advertising inventory and add pay-per-click ads.

Adding About.com’s 22 million monthly users to the Times Company’s 13 million will form the 12th-largest entity on the Internet, according to Nielsen//Net Ratings. The Times will market its other digital properties to those 22 million users.

The $410 million is an amount Primedia said was more than 10 times About.com’s 2004 earnings. The paper will treat the buy as an asset purchase, expecting it to have an effect on the bottom line in 2007.

In a related move, the company named Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, to the post of senior vice president of digital operations, reporting to Janet Robinson, president and CEO of The New York Times Company. Nisenholtz will be responsible for the strategic development, operations and management of The New York Times Company’s digital properties, including About.com.

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