Points for timing if this rumor is true: Tech blogger Om Malik reports on GigaOm that AOL, the Internet giant struggling to reinvent itself as a Web content powerhouse, is in talks to acquire TechCrunch, the technology-news website currently holding its Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld declined to comment on the report. Malik said AOL CEO Tim Armstrong might appear at the conference to make an announcement of the rumored deal.
An acquisition by AOL would bring to an end TechCrunch’s spiky independence. Founder Michael Arrington, a former lawyer, is known for stirring up Silicon Valley with his outspoken views on startups and technology investing.
AOL, originally an Internet service provider, has increasingly emphasized Web content since its 2005 acquisition of Weblogs Inc., the parent company of blogs like Engadget and Joystiq. Under Armstrong, that strategy has gotten sharper emphasis. The acquisition of a tech-business site would complement Engadget, a consumer-oriented website which emphasizes hardware, while TechCrunch focuses on consumer-website startups.
AOL was previously reported to be in talks with Mashable, another rival tech blog, and to have had earlier discussions with TechCrunch. But TechCrunch is at a considerably more developed stage than at the last round of talks, with its Disrupt conference series and an expanded writing staff (including VentureBeat alum MG Siegler and witty former SF Weekly editor Alexia Tsotsis, who joked about finding a new job as word of the deal spread. Arrington himself has moved out of Silicon Valley, commuting to the Bay Area from Seattle.
Update: The Wall Street Journal says it also has a source confirming the talks. Meanwhile, Arrington was absent from the stage of his TechCrunch Disrupt conference for the entire afternoon, and we’ve heard that CEO Heather Harde was seen backstage in deep conversation with a lawyer.