After weeks of senior Engadget staffers fluttering away like the mature butterflies they are, it looks like AOL’s migrating monarchs have found a new home at SB Nation. The Washington-D.C.-based umbrella for over 300 individual sports blogs will provide a roof for the Engadget defectors to start a new tech blog, led by former Engadget Editor-in-Chief Josh Topolsky.
An interesting wrinkle in AOL’s ongoing plans for media domination? Sure, but SB Nation’s ties and finances paint an even more interesting story of where this corporate talent swap could go.
SB Nation CEO Jim Bankoff is both an AOL alumni (he originally pushed the company to buy Engadget in 2005, and left his position as EVP in 2006) and investor in gdgt.com, another tech site founded by former Engadget blood. That puts him in the unique and potentially conflicted position as both a gdgt investor and CEO of the company that will own an upcoming Engadget spinoff. What does this mean for Engadget’s defectors and gdgt? A lot of things, potentially.
Rather than getting torn in two different directions by similar interests, Bankoff could try to combine them by attempting to buy gdgt.
Only last month, rumors swirled that AOL would swoop in and buy gdgt, a portion of which AOL Ventures already owns. But with sites like Engadget, TechCrunch and Switched already under its wings, gdgt might just seem redundant. It could make the perfect foil to the upcoming Engadget spinoff, though, helping SB Nation establish its own line of tech blogs and avoiding any potential conflicts for Bankoff. Back in November, the company sucked up $24 million of third-round funding, which could give it the cash to pull it off. The biggest caveat: AOL Ventures already has money in gdgt, which could put a kink in a potential purchase.
Could AOL buy SB Nation?
Despite its surplus of tech blogs, AOL has yet to proffer a sports blog that can punch at the weight of Gawker competitor Deadspin. And it wants one. With an alleged 12 million unique visitors monthly across 300 individual blogs, SB Nation could fill that gap for AOL. With Topolsky & Co. at SB Nation, it could allow AOL to rope back in the runaways, too. Would they want to go? Who knows, but SB Nation CEO Jim Bankoff likely doesn’t care. He could see the upcoming site as a “value add” to prepare SB Nation for a potential acquisition, building it to sell it.
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