The Best Digital Content Publisher You’ve Never Heard Of
If you’ve ever visited Investopedia (a lifeline for those of us in the finance industry with communications backgrounds), The Balance (personal finance), Verywell (health), TripSavvy, or even Brides.com or Liquor.com, you’ve visited a site owned by digital content powerhouse Dotdash.
Never heard of Dotdash? Neither had I until I stumbled across its impressive lifelong learning website, ThoughtCo.
And while the name Dotdash may seem odd, who cares? It’s not like you’ll be typing it into a browser anytime soon.
Owned by the former owners of About.com, an early player in online content curation, Dotdash grew from a handful of detailed, informative, and service-based websites in 2017 — when About.com was dismantled and resurrected as Dotdash — to nearly a dozen such websites with traffic of about 100 million U.S. visitors every month by the end of 2019.
Acquisitions R Us
During those two short but incredibly busy years for Dotdash, the company’s impressive turnaround was featured by a number of publications, including Fortune, Forbes, AdAge, Entreprenuer, Digiday, TechCrunch, Wired, and even Variety.
The latest comprehensive overview, published by Fast Company, provides a detailed look not only at how Dotdash survived its challenging early days but fast-forwarded to become a highly respected digital media success story.
The Secret Sauce
The secrets to this success seem relatively simple. Acquire platforms with extensive archives on evergreen topics and publish fresh (or freshly recycled) content written by subject matter experts on clean websites that load quickly and include the fewest ads possible.
By catering to multiple vertical markets and providing the readers in those markets with comprehensive, detailed, high-quality information from trusted sources, Dotdash has become a trusted resource itself.
And the Mastermind Who Concocted It
According to the person behind this success, Dotdash and former About.com CEO Neil Vogel, the general nature of About.com worked at first — and then didn’t. In the early days of the web, jumping on About.com to look up everything from how to fix a leaky faucet to what you should know before buying a DVD player was pretty common when one was surfing the still somewhat-limited offerings online, and About.com grew a healthy following. But then Google, Facebook, and others — along with SEO-driven algorithms — took over.
While some large portal websites like Yahoo may be hanging on, Vogel decided to do something drastic when he realized About.com numbers were stable but not exactly booming. That’s when he convinced his bosses at IAC (InterActivCorp), an internet-focused media holding company, to take a chance on breaking up a website that had become too dated and clunky; salvage what could be updated and streamlined from its archives; and funnel that revised content into a series of compelling sites alongside new, SEO-optimized content.
Vogel, who refers to Dotdash as a service-oriented publisher rather than a content curator, says the real focus is on profiting from traffic that arrives at Dotdash sites with the clear intent of accessing information in specific areas of interest. While some Dotdash sites might cover a variety of topics that fit in a broad category, others have a truly narrow focus that helps ensure visitors return again and again.
And while the name Dotdash may seem odd, who cares? It’s not like you’ll be typing it into a browser anytime soon. What you’re more likely to type, though, is a search term that may lead you to a Dotdash website that’s focused on exactly the vacation itinerary, cocktail recipe, or investing advice you’re looking for — and has a name to match.
I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction when I’m not working as a copy editor. Author of the novel One Sister’s Song.