When Neil Vogel rebranded the internet giant that was About.com for the modern age, he didn’t pull punches. In 2017, he’d rebranded the site as Dotdash, breaking the monolithic site into a series of sleek, informative verticals, cutting thousands of articles—and a ton of ad space—in the process.
It was a risky rebrand, but it ended up reaping big rewards. Thanks to Vogel’s content-first focus, the company has continuously upped its revenue in the digital-first era. Vogel spoke with Adweek about Dotdash’s approach to content, and his POV on the publishing space before his upcoming appearance at the 2019 NextTech conference.
Adweek: What’s your general strategy around the publishing space?
Neil Vogel: For us, it’s all about the discipline to stick to what we knew, rather than trying to do a ton of different things in the space. That meant going deep on what we were very good at, and over time, we learned that that’s content—specifically, the kind of content that helps people. When that realization hit, all we needed to figure out was the quickest way to get our content to the people that wanted and needed it.
When you think of it that way, suddenly the path becomes very clear; we just needed to figure out how to make our sites as fast as possible, to get people the content they loved as quickly as possible. And it turned out people loved the approach, and so the algorithms across the web and social media favored it, too. It’s definitely not the right plan for every publisher, but it was the right plan for us.
“There’s this narrative around publishing that it’s somehow broken, and a bad business that isn’t salvageable in the era of walled gardens. I couldn’t disagree more.”
What does “quality content” mean to you?
It means giving you the most efficient, complete answer to whatever it is you’re looking for. If you have a question, we want to give you the most comprehensive, authoritative answer available on the web today. If you’re looking up a recipe for vegetable lasagna, we don’t just give you the recipe; we want to give you the calories and ingredients. We want to tell you how to scale it up or scale it down depending on what you have in your fridge. We want to have full color pictures, videos, and make everything optimized for search.
This sounds like it’s not a big deal, but it’s really hard to get all of those pieces in order! We’ve got 400 employees working on this, and we spend millions on content every year. Content is no joke to us, and we play that to our advantage.
What’s one advertising myth that you want to dismantle?
There’s this narrative around publishing that it’s somehow broken, and a bad business that isn’t salvageable in the era of walled gardens. I couldn’t disagree more. Publishing is a field that’s been around for more than 100 years, and isn’t going anywhere. What is broken, I think, are the business models that some publishers are taking. So often, publishers just want to chase the shiny thing that really isn’t right for their personal brand, rather than capitalizing on what their true value to the consumer is. If you focus on putting forth a product that the public actually wants, it’s a great business.