About.com: Why NYTimes has bought a gold mine

Back in April 2004, I wrote about CEO Peter Horan‘s efforts to make over About.com to give it more of a brand identity, and how this was a different focus than the strategy followed by former CEO Bill Day, which was to make sure the site’s pages could be to be discovered as top-line results in as many search queries as possible, particularly on Google.
Seems like the combined efforts of the two regimes may have formed a combo that was irrestible to the New York Times–Horan’s efforts added 25 new section fronts on topics such as Small Business, and Career Planning, which support targeted advertising, while Day & Co.’s efforts ensured that About.com pages such as the Broadway Show Guide, Geography Guide (#1 Geography result on Google) and the Urban Legends Guide (#3 result for Urban Legends on Google) show up in the first 15 Google (natural) search results on many topics.
After all, think about what About.com’s knowledge of natural search will bring to the Times–with the judicious application of some SEO optimization and the creation of new landing pages that brings some content outside the archive’s walls, the Times can kick some butt and do some major traffic acquisition, vastly boosting their revenue from sports, entertainment, financial, and even local advertising (think about adding the NYTimes ad targeting skill for rich media to the About.com SEO mix).
Can you spell money machine?
And then, think about the halo effect for satellite Times properties–what’s it gonna do to the Boston.com franchise when these tools and knowledge base get lent to Boston? Right now Boston.com has the second Red Sox result on Google–but when you type in “Red Sox Guide” about.com’s page comes up as #4–and it’s about the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry.
No wonder Martin Nisenholtz got promoted. This was a very shrewd move.
And hey, they get blogs, too, should they ever want to go there…