Rumor of the day: AOL to purchase TechCrunch

Deal would give AOL influential player in Silicon Valley start-up, venture capital scene

Five years after launching TechCrunch and subsequently building it into one of the most influential technology blogs in the world, founder Michael Arrington may be on the verge of cashing in.

Rumors are circulating around the Internet that AOL Inc. is in discussions with the sometimes controversial Arrington to purchase TechCrunch. The Wall Street Journal's report Tuesday cites the ubiquitous "person familiar with the matter." No figures have been mentioned.

AOL already owns another technology blog -- Engadget -- but CEO Tim Armstrong said last week that the company wanted to own more content geared toward tech audiences, "and you're going to see us do more things in that space."

In addition to buying existing content sites, AOL recently as gone on a writer and editor hiring binge in a bid to create more original content, a departure from the increasingly prevalent practice among online publishers of aggregating content from other sites (and laying off their own staff). The aggregation model has become more popular as publishers continue to struggle with a decline in online advertising revenue exacerbated by the recession.

TechCrunch, ranked No. 302 in the world by Alexa, is highly influential in Silicon Valley, especially to publicity and cash-hungry start-ups. In fact, this week the site is hosting TechCrunch Disrupt, a conference in San Francisco showcasing dozens of tech start-ups. Yesterday I read somewhere that Armstrong may take the stage at the event to announce the deal. We'll have to wait and see.

To many in the tech industry, Arrington is a polarizing figure, mainly due to his blunt opinions and outspokenness (which some call rudeness). Earlier this year he provoked Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz into dropping an F-bomb on him during an onstage discussion at the spring Disrupt conference. Last year someone spit right in his face as he was leaving another conference in Munich, Germany. That incident, along with a reported death threat, prompted Arrington to take time off from blogging.

Understandably (though uncharacteristically), Arrington is keeping quiet about the AOL rumor.

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