NY Times agrees to buy About.com

The New York Times Co. has agreed to buy About.com from Primedia Inc. in an all-cash deal valued at about $410 million. —NY Times agrees to buy About.com (New York Business)

About.com is a collection of free resources compiled by “experts” in a format that resembles a blog. The About.com authors are part-timers, enthusiasts who post brief articles and recommend links, within the structure of a website that serves up a lot of annoying advertisements. The About.com “guides” get a commission on the ads.

A few years ago, before there were blog-indexing sites, the fact that About.com let you search through so many articles and links made the site valuable. Now that there are good, reliable ways of finding the most current information posted by thousands and thousands of webloggers, many of them with credentials that exceed those of the About.com “guides,” I’m turning to About.com less and less frequently (especially after they mothballed their interactive fiction category). It is too easy for people with valuable expertise to post their material on their own, rather than depend on About.com to do it for them.

The NY Times has credibility, but its content has little visibility on the internet, since its URLs expire.

Update: A half hour later.

From Peggy Noonan’s editorial, “The Blogs Must Be Crazy

Some publisher is going to decide that if you can’t fight blogs, you can join them. He’ll think like this: We’re already on the Internet. That’s how bloggers get and review our reporting. Why don’t we get our own bloggers to challenge our work? Why don’t we invite bloggers who already exist into the tent? Why not take the best things said on blogs each day and print them on a Daily Blog page? We’d be enhancing our rep as an honest news organization, and it will further our branding!

About.com isn’t a collection of bloggers. It probably looks desirable to the NYT because the content is more tightly controlled than an equal number of blogs would be. Everyone who agreed to provide content for About.com is comfortable with the idea of working for The Man.