Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Webbys Master Neil Vogel Is’s New CEO has a new CEO. Later this year, it should have a new look.

The new boss is Neil Vogel, who is probably best known as the guy behind the Webby Awards, the Internet’s take on the Oscars. He replaces Darline Jean, who stayed with the answers website after IAC bought it from the New York Times last summer.

At the time, IAC officials said that About, which relies on freelance “guides” to generate a wide range of short, search-engine friendly posts, was already working well. They argued that simply by linking it with their site, IAC could boost its performance.

That turned out to be true, says CEO Doug Leeds, who says traffic at About is up 20 percent since the acquisition. But Leeds says that IAC has also concluded that it could do better. One big problem: Even though About is one of the Web’s most popular sites — comScore says it has 64.8 million unique users, which puts it in 17th place in the U.S. — few people know about it.

“We were a litle bit surprised when we started doing surveys to see how little the brand resonated with our users,” Leeds says. “A significant portion of the time, [visitors] aren’t even aware that they were on an About site. We didn’t realize how little penetration the brand had.”

Enter Vogel, who founded Recognition Media, the marketing company behind events like the Webbys, as well as New York’s Internet Week; prior to that, he was at Alloy Media, a Web 1.0 media conglomerate.

At About, his task will be to overhaul the site’s look and user experience, and eventually promote the new version to the public. Vogel says he doesn’t want to change the site’s content, but does figure he can display it better, and says he wants to promote the site’s guides/authors as well.

“I think we’re going to do things with design that makes About look a lot more like things on the Web that are successful,” he said. Asked for examples of those sites, he called out BuzzFeed and Pinterest. “There are people that are doing really really smart things, and if we can cherry-pick from the best of them, we’ll do some interesting stuff.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik