AOL Buys Sphere's Blog Content Engine

Tomorrow AOL will announce the acquisition of San Francisco-based Sphere, a blog content engine that launched in 2006. The price is not being disclosed, but sources are suggesting it’s in the $25 million range, or possibly a little more. More details from Om Malik

When Sphere first launched as a blog search engine they were already late to the blog search game. Technorati and others had been around for some time already, and even Google Blog Search was nearly eight months old. Sphere had some nice features, but it was in a tough and competitive space.

But CEO Tony Conrad, a former venture capitalist, quickly adapted to the changing market and focused on delivering blog results relevant to content delivered by big news and content sites. Time was the first to go live with “Sphere It” links, and most of the big news sites followed over time. In July 2007 we noted that they had very quietly completed a transformation into a “related content” engine.

Sphere lands in Bill Wilson’s organization, the EVP of Programming at AOL. His division controls AOL’s content properties (Entertainment, Finance, Weblogs, etc.). In a phone call today, Wilson told me he doesn’t intend to change Sphere’s approach or brand. They are growing a number of micro/niche brands, he said, and leveraging what he calls “passion points” of small but passionate audiences. Sphere fits right into that by showing relevant content to users, and getting AOL content in front of more users.

Congratulations to Conrad on the aquisition, as well as the rest of the Sphere team (Martin Remy, Steve Nieker, Toni Schneider, Mike Garfias, Alex Bendig, Andy Cabell, Anne Dorman, Jeff Yolen, Adam Embick, Josh Guttman, Kevin Cowan, Sven Henderson, Troy Vitullo and Michael Harzheim). Sphere had raised $3.5 million in venture capital over two rounds.