Podcast: Neil Vogel on Building Dotdash and the Brands Being Remembered

We talked about the ad strategy at Dotdash, creating great content and having brands that are remembered plus so much more.

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Neil Vogel is CEO of Dotdash, a series of brands across verticals like food, technology finance and others. What started as About.com has morphed into an incredibly profitable, fast-growing media company. Although Neil has poor taste in sports teams, when it comes to running this network, I have to tip my hat.

In this episode, we discussed a variety of topics, but a few things jumped out to me…

On ad strategy at Dotdash

We all have been to that website that causes the fans on our laptops to go into overdrive. Whether it’s popups, pre-rolls, interstitials… You name it, we’ve likely all experienced it.

Dotdash bet that by reducing the number of ads on the site—2/3rds of what their competitors might have—that the sites would load faster and that would make people happier. That, in turn, would result in people engaging with the content and ads more.

The other part of the strategy is focusing in on contextual advertising. An example Neil shares is if someone is coming for the site on July 2nd and looking for BBQ recipes, they know exactly what type of advertising to deliver to them.

On creating great content & SEO

There is no denying that Google drives a decent percentage of traffic to the various Dotdash sites, though Neil qualified that it’s no more or less than most other publishers on the web.

However, the way he sees it, the only real “secret” to SEO is doing exactly what Google wants: delivering the absolute best content out there. That’s Google’s business. And so, Dotdash invests millions in creating the absolute best content.

But it’s more than just that… In his mind, creating great content is fundamental to the quality of the brands they’re building. I wrote about this on Friday, but because of the quality of the brands built on the great content, he believes people would miss the brands if they went away.

On not chasing the shiny things

Some of the biggest mistakes that they made early on at Dotdash was seeing what other people were doing, knowing that it was the wrong approach, but still trying to do them anyway.

The advice that Neil has for prospective operators is to stay focused on what you know works. It’s easy to get distracted by the shiny things and the press other people are getting, but it’s about staying focused on what works.

A quick postscript…

I tweeted about it yesterday, but in November, I’ll be joining Morning Brew as the GM of B2B. In a previous issue of A Media Operator, Morning Brew actually ran an ad for this job and I described it as my dream job.

I’m incredibly excited and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help support and grow the three franchises they have—Emerging Tech Brew, Marketing Brew and Retail Brew.

I’ve had some people reach out asking about what that means for A Media Operator. Very little. I will continue to write twice a week like I have for over a year now and I’ll continue to interview great media operators. I just won’t write about Morning Brew anymore (that’d be cheating).

I’m unbelievably excited about this next decade in digital media. People are finally opening their eyes to the possibilities of niche media. And I’m going to continue telling those stories. Thanks for being part of this journey!