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The Pennsylvania Gazette Highlights Neil VogelA feature article, titled “Dotdash Rising”, appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette. The centerpiece of this article is Neil Vogel, Beta Pi ’89, W ’92, the CEO of internet media company Dotdash, formerly About.com. Dotdash is the corporate umbrella for numerous “how to” websites. Among his life-long friendships, begun at Beta Pi, is one that was of significant importance in attaining his present position at Dotdash.

After graduating from Penn, brother Vogel began his career at an investment bank. Shortly thereafter, he joined Alloy, a retail purveyor of apparel and accessories to young people. Placed in charge of business development, his plan to market these items over the internet was instituted and highly successful. The company went public in 1999.

In 2003, brother Vogel, at the suggestion of an old boss, purchased an awards show, the Telly Awards, a Kentucky-based program that presented awards to local television shows and commercials. His new company, Recognition Media, updated the program by bringing it to the internet. The new-found success of Telly Awards led to the acquisition of seven other award shows. Brother Vogel learned that “…everyone needs measurement in their work product”. Companies seek validation through these awards and are willing to pay to participate in the awards programs in the hope of receiving validation.

One of Recognition Media’s acquisitions was the Webby Awards, the “Oscars” for the internet, in 2005. In the first year of his ownership, Al Gore was presented the life-time achievement award. The former vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee’s acceptance speech, “Please Don’t Recount This Vote”, went viral resulting in a huge increase in business for Recognition Media. In 2013, brother Vogel relinquished his role as CEO for Recognition Media, but remains on the company’s board.

After being recruited by IAC, the parent company of Vimeo, Tinder, Angie’s List, etc., brother Vogel was placed in charge of IAC’s About.com. This website was in a downward trend due to its old content, lack of speed, and proliferation of ads, resulting in a loss of users and subscribers. For three years, brother Vogel tried to repair and update About.com but was unable to achieve the potential he saw in the website. He determined that a major overhaul was necessary, including a change of name.

In 2016, brother Vogel attended an executive meeting of IAC to present his plan to deconstruct About.com into separate websites. Each website would focus on one subject matter. The websites were to present self-help articles, written by experts addressing particular points. The articles could be loaded at “lightning speed” and have fewer ads. This would lead to greater user satisfaction, attract a larger audience, and increase return visits. Subsequently, there would be greater advertiser satisfaction.

Supporting brother Vogel in his determination to remake About.com was Mark Stein, Beta Pi ’87, C ’90, W ’90, IAC’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer. The plan was accepted and sufficient financing was provided to remake About.com into Dotdash.

Separate websites were created, under the purview of Dotdash, for wellness, Verywell Health, travel, TripSavvy, financial planning, Investopedia, and home improvement, The Spruce. Public response to The Spruce has been so great that a line of interior paints was launched by licensing. A later acquisition was Brides from Conde Nast. Under Dotdash, Brides magazine can only be found on the internet, a printed version is no longer available. More recently, Dotdash has acquired websites for beauty, Byrdie, alcohol, Liquor.com, lifestyle, Mydomain, and the environment, TreeHugger.

Users are directed to these websites by search engines, including Google. To remain relevant to Google, i.e. appearing on the first page of Google search results, brother Vogel intends to keep Dotdash articles focused, written by experts in each field, provide the information users are seeking, and thoroughly keep all information provided to be current. The success of Dotdash can be found in the extremely high retention rate of its advertisers, the hundreds of millions of visitors each month (compared to 40 million each month for About.com), and that Dotdash is generating a positive cash flow.  

Congratulations to Neil Vogel on his ability to bring life to companies formerly in distress. Best wishes for continued success.