About.com Gets Into Native Advertising

Site hopes to engage readers with redesign

After years of being one the most-sought out sites for advice online, About.com is changing its look for the first time in a decade to help it reach the modern audience—and add native advertising to the mix.

The new redesign was unveiled on its homepage today, marking the culmination of several weeks of slow rollouts throughout the entire site.

About.com CEO Neil Vogel asserted that the online publication is still one of top 20 sites according to comScore and reaches 85 million users a month. However, despite having more than 3.5 million pieces of content, he admitted that the old layout wasn't always easy to consume. The sleeker design already has increased engagement by 10 to 15 percent in the sections that featured the scheme.

"We're trying to anticipate what people will need next, and allow them to get into it and explore additional content," Vogel explained.

The modern look also added in a new revenue stream: native advertising. About.com chief revenue officer Brian Colbert said that because most of About.com’s traffic is from search and driven with readers looking for something specific, customized content allows it to let brands advertise in a place where their consumers are seeking them. With the site publishing over 6,000 articles a month, it was a missed opportunity not to allow marketers to live within its content.

Now, more than half the deals About.com has signed for the fourth quarter has a native component. Currently, Norton and Merrell are running content on About.com, with Disney kicking off a travel campaign on Oct. 1. Other deals with financial services and automotive brands are expected to roll out later this year.

"On the Internet in 2014, marketers have rightly evolved into telling stories. We never had a platform that was available to do that," Colbert said. "We have engaging content, and if our real value is how good our content is, then you can see (native advertising) is a perfect fit."