AOL may acquire more media properties

An acquisition would be in line with AOL's strategy to generate more content in-house

AOL may buy more online media and even traditional newspapers in its bid to boost the digital content it offers customers, a senior company executive said.

"It is a possibility," AOL Chief Technology Officer Alexander Gounares said on Wednesday.

The move would be in line with AOL's strategy to have most of its content, including international content, from internal sources, he added.

The company said last Tuesday that it had acquired TechCrunch, a technology news blog. AOL already owns Engadget a Web magazine on gadgets and consumer electronics. The investment in technology content is deliberate as a significant proportion of AOL's audience is interested in technology news, Gounares said.

AOL now plans to expand the content it offers to provide its audience with community news and information. The notion of community and content for community has been around before the printed word, Gounares said.

When people get up in the morning they want to know not only the national and international news, but also the best deals and events going around locally, Gounares said. They also want to be in touch with family and friends using social networks, he added.

AOL already runs the Patch community sites, which are focused on coverage for individual towns and communities. Referring to the role of the journalist working for a Patch site, Gounares said it was like that of a village "shaman" or town crier who makes sense of what is happening in the community, and conveys that to the reader.

The Patch sites have a cost edge over traditional local newspapers because they operate without expensive buildings and take advantage of a centralized sales organization. In addition, technology developments can be rolled out across other Patch and AOL sites, Gounares said.

AOL India is, for example, considering rolling out Patch.

AOL also runs Seed.com, a site that purchases writing and other content, and distributes it to its various properties. AOL would like to produce more content in-house, but in some situations it is not always possible to have in-house the right person at the right place and time, or an expert on a particular topic, Gounares said. Seed.com fills that gap, he added.

AOL also acquired last month 5min Media, a video syndication network, and Thing Labs, whose Brizzly family of Web-based social software allows users to create, share and explore content. It believes that social networking platforms, such as its Lifestream aggregator, will be one of many ways people will stay in touch and get content about family, friends and the local community.

The company is planning to launch in the U.S. Wow.com, a deal-of-the-day service with national and local offers. "Our business model is advertising, and a very valuable part of advertising is the deal, the coupon," Gounares said. He did not however disclose the number of merchants that have signed up for the Wow program.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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