AOL buys Silicon Valley tech blog TechCrunch

AOL, the once high-flying Internet group which is seeking a revival as an online content company, announced Tuesday it had acquired TechCrunch, a leading Silicon Valley technology blog.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed but various reports put the purchase price at between US$25-million and US$40-million.

AOL also announced two other acquisitions on Tuesday — Web video syndication firm 5min Media and Thing Labs, the company behind the Brizzly family of Web-based social software for creating and sharing content.

AOL said TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence.

AOL chairman and chief executive Tim Armstrong and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington made the acquisition announcement on stage at a TechCrunch conference in San Francisco.

“This is a big day for AOL,” Armstrong said, adding that AOL “will try to be as hands-off as possible” with the technology blog known for its inside sources and blanket coverage of startups.

The high-profile Arrington said the deal calls for him to remain part of the operation. “I have a funny idea that I’ll be with AOL for at least three years,” he said.

TechCrunch websites include flagship TechCrunch, MobileCrunch, CrunchGear, TechCrunchIT, GreenTech, TechCrunchTV and CrunchBase.

AOL already owns a leading technology news site, Engadget. “I would expect these brands to operate independently but leverage each other,” Armstrong said of AOL’s technology sites and TechCrunch.

Financial details of the 5min Media transaction were not revealed, but Dow Jones-owned technology blog MediaMemo said the purchase price was between 50 million and 65 million dollars.

Armstrong said the purchase of 5min Media was intended to “better position AOL to capture the growing video opportunity on the Web.”

“With 5min Media we’ll be able to add more video inventory to our pages,” he said.

Ran Harnevo, 5min Media’s co-founder and chief executive, said AOL and 5min Media’s “complementary video capabilities make us a compelling fit and an attractive combination for content creators and publishers.”

Founded in 2006 and with headquarters in New York and offices in Tel Aviv, 5min Media has a library of more than 200,000 videos from more than 1,000 media companies and professional independent video producers.

The purchase price for Thing Labs, which was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco, was also not disclosed.

AOL said Thing Labs’ Brizzly software will “play a key role in helping AOL provide consumers with the best possible venues to discover and share content with each other.”

AOL merged with Time Warner in 2001 at the height of the dot-com boom in what is considered one of the most disastrous mergers ever and was spun off by Time Warner in December into an independent company.

Armstrong has embarked on an aggressive round of cost-cutting since taking the reins at AOL last year and has said he plans to refocus the company on “content, ads and communications.” – AFP



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