Archive for September 29th, 2010

Article from SF Gate.

“AOL Inc. bolstered its strategy to reinvent itself as a major source of online content Tuesday by buying San Francisco’s TechCrunch Inc., which operates a popular and influential network of technology news blogs.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bloomberg News, citing two sources who were familiar with the terms, said AOL agreed to pay $25 million.

TechCrunch founder and co-editor Michael Arrington, a lawyer who has become an influential technology writer, agreed to remain with the company for at least three years as his company joins an AOL stable that includes the popular consumer electronics blog Engadget.

AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong joined Arrington onstage during the second day of TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference at the San Francisco Design Center to publicly announce the deal Tuesday.

“I flew out here because the company I’m most interested in is TechCrunch,” Armstrong said in a tongue-in-cheek exchange with Arrington. “I’d love it if you let me partner TechCrunch with AOL to see if we can build a very substantial company together.”

“Yes is the answer,” Arrington replied before he and other TechCrunch executives signed the acquisition papers as the audience watched.

TechCrunch becomes part of AOL’s overall strategy to recover from its failed corporate marriage to Time Warner by reinventing itself as a major source of online news, information and entertainment and to make that content available on all Web-connected devices.

AOL already includes online sites and services such as FanHouse, Joystiq, Switched, MapQuest and Moviefone. The New York firm cut another deal earlier Tuesday to buy video distribution services 5min Media, which has a library of 200,000 fashion, cooking and fitness videos.

Seeking future brands

AOL also is investing in a network of hyperlocal news sites through its Patch Media subsidiary, which already covers about 150 communities. Last week, AOL launched Patch U, a network of partnerships between Patch publications and leading journalism departments at universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, Northwestern and Missouri.

“There is one thing that remains constant across all of the major platforms on the Web, and that’s content,” Armstrong said last week at a business conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs & Co. “So our specific strategy for content is to invest in the future brands for the digital space for mobile, for the Internet, for the plasma screen, and you’re going to see us continue to make more moves down that pathway.”

Many consumers may still think of AOL as being America Online, the company that rose to prominence selling dial-up access to the Internet. America Online eventually merged with media conglomerate Time Warner but spun off in December.

“Today’s news has kind of reminded people that AOL is actually not dead and buried,” said Eric Talley, co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy.

Database of investors

The acquisition of TechCrunch, which has about 40 employees, contractors and contributors, “is not a gigantic deal,” but it does give AOL a well-known brand within the tech community, Talley said. AOL also gains the potentially valuable CrunchBase online database of company and investor information.

“That data could be the source of all types of future services that AOL is interested in getting into,” Talley said.

TechCrunch becomes part of the AOL Technology Network with Engadget, which according to online measurement service comScore was the top tech blog in August with about 7.3 million unique visitors.”

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