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Silicon Valley's leading technology blog, TechCrunch, has been acquired by AOL. Widely regarded as the go-to source for breaking tech news, TechCrunch was rumored to have cost AOL between $25-$40 million. This buy adds to AOL's sizable portfolio of online properties, which includes Engadget, one of the most widely-read gadget sites. TechCrunch's indefatigable founder, Michael Arrington, played a key role in pursuing most of the site's biggest scoops. It looks as though he'll be locked in at AOL for the next three years, to the relief of many TechCrunch readers. However, questions remain as to how TechCrunch might change under the ownership of AOL.

  • Looks Like TechCrunch Will Maintain Its Editorial Freedom, writes Matthew Ingram at Gigaom:

Arrington also raised the issue of editorial independence during his brief discussion with the AOL CEO after the two signed the agreement on stage, where they were joined by TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde. The TechCrunch founder said that he asked AOL what would happen if some internal company documents were leaked to the blog network, the way internal Twitter documents were last year: Would TechCrunch be free to publish them? According to Arrington, the terms of the deal with AOL provide “complete editorial freedom” for the blog network.
  • Will AOL Expand the Scope of TechCrunch?  That's what Gawker's Ryan Tate expects: "It's easy to see AOL growing TechCrunch by giving it coverage areas now handled by other AOL sites. Daily Finance, for example, is said to be underperforming, and it's easy to imagine TechCrunch expanding its finance coverage further beyond Silicon Valley venture capital. If TechCrunch is to keep growing, and to simultaneously avoid losing its distinctive and often rambunctious voice in the maw of a big and comparatively ancient internet conglomerate, it will very much still need Arrington —who personally pens the site's most provocative scoops — not just around, but deeply engaged."
  • Arrington Deserves This, writes Don Dodge at The Next Big Thing: "Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but will probably dribble out over time. You can be sure Mike Arrington never has to work again...but he will continue working 18 hours a day anyway. That is just the way he is. Mike will stay on with AOL at least 3 years based on stock options and incentives in the deal."
  • Look for a New Social Network for Entrepreneurs, writes Quentin Hardy at Forbes: "The most interesting thing to think about is what AOL does with Techcrunch’s property Crunchbase. It is a database on small companies and influential people, and could be made into some sort of social network for investors and entrepreneurs, even an index akin to what Dow and Jones did way back when."
  • What Is AOL's Master Plan? wonders The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal: "AOL's content strategy seems a little all over the place. In 2009, they were pushing high-profile, high-cost sites like Politics Daily. Then they started hiring young journalists like mad to do local reporting for Patch. And now this Techcrunch purchase. Perhaps there is a brilliant plan linking everything together, but if so, we're still waiting for the reveal."
  • Some TechCrunch Staffers Worried About Acquisition, reports Robert Scoble at Scobleizer:
Some of the staff told me quietly that they were worried about what working for AOL would be like and that Techcrunch wouldn’t be the same kind of publication post acquisition. I told them they should look to Engadget for some clues to how AOL deals with content properties it acquires. That’s seemed to have gone pretty well...

So, I don’t think this ends Techcrunch, but it certainly will make it just another big brand that doesn’t change that much. With Arrington involved you could always expect some surprises every month and I bet the frequency of surprises goes down over time. How dramatically? Time will tell.

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