When AOL spins off from Time Warner (TWX), the company’s focus will be to become the world’s premier Web publishing company — a sort-of Time Inc. for the 21st Century.
That could entail a blog rollup of sorts, in which AOL buys a bunch of quality blog publishers to aggregate their content, traffic, and ad sales under one roof.
As an independent company, AOL will have a cash cow in its shrinking-but-still-there dialup access business, and will have money to play with. Just last quarter, AOL’s access business generated $393 million in revenue. (A 27% year-over-year decline.)
Over the course of several quarters, that cash could buy a bunch of blogs and Web publishers, especially as valuations fall and small publishers struggle to make money in a tough Internet ad market.
AOL’s big blog buy so far was its 2005 acquisition of Jason Calacanis’ Weblogs Inc. In that deal, AOL got the Blogsmith publishing system it uses for most of its content sites, and blogs like Engadget and Autoblog. Engadget alone will do more than 150 million pageviews this month, including its companion HD and mobile sites, we’ve heard. Not bad.
Despite the two recent deals, AOL has mostly grown its publishing business organically, rapidly launching and ramping up sites like Politics Daily and Daily Finance in a matter of a few months. (The company is now regularly hiring high-end journalists, such as its recent hire of ex-Portfolio.com media writer Jeff Bercovici for Daily Finance.) Meanwhile, TMZ, its home-brewed entertainment news site, has been a hit, too, recently breaking the news (and leading coverage) of Michael Jackson’s death.
But why just build when buying is cheap and easy?