AOL Confirms gdgt Acquisition, Quests For tch Domination

AOL (owner of TechCrunch) today is taking one more step to build out its content empire: it has officially confirmed the acquisition of technology reviews site gdgt — first reported by TechCrunch nearly two weeks ago. Gdgt itself is announcing the news on its own site, and a spokesperson from AOL has also confirmed the news to TechCrunch directly.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but we have heard that the deal was in the high seven figures, and that there was another — higher — offer from another company, but that gdgt’s co-founders, Ryan Block and Peter Rojas, went with AOL because it was a better fit.

It seems poetic that the future of a company so deeply embedded in the Internet’s past would hinge upon amassing properties that so vehemently chronicle its future. The deal will see Ryan Block take on a bigger role at AOL, where we have heard from sources that he will become head of product for AOL Tech Media. He will report to Jay Kirsch, and will take some of the learnings, technology and sensibility — and staff — that he and Rojas have brought to gdgt and apply them across AOL’s portfolio of tech sites.

In addition to TechCrunch, those sites include Engadget (which Rojas founded and Block used to edit), TUAW and Joystiq. In other words, the acquisition will give gdgt much greater scale for its product.

With AOL’s tech portfolio heavy on blogs and news, gdgt will be bringing complementary content in the form of a huge database of gadget information, created with the aim of “improving the buying experience,” in the words of Block.

The move lets the two founders come full-circle and, for those who ever wondered, provides more color on why they left in the first place.

“We didn’t leave Engadget (or AOL) because we were unhappy, we left to do gdgt because at the time it was tough to build something that was clearly not editorial,” Block told me. “That’s obviously changed, and we’re excited to be able to continue to invest in and grow gdgt, while also bringing a lot of the stuff we’ve built to the rest of AOL Tech.”

The move is not entirely out of the blue. Peter Rojas — who will stay on running gdgt as well as take on a role as executive editor-at-large at Engadget — notes that gdgt has been working with Engadget (and some other publishers, via a WordPress plug-in) via its Databox for about 15 months now. That automatically pulls data from gdgt’s product database into a module at the bottom of posts, similar to how TC pulls in data from Crunchbase.

AOL, via AOL Ventures, had been one of gdgt’s strategic investors prior to this announcement, along with True Ventures, Betaworks, Spark Capital, Lerer Ventures and several angel investors. In total it had raised $3.72 million.

The move is key for AOL, in that it gives the company another way to bring in traffic to its existing portfolio of news sites, and it also, by way of gdgt itself, increases traffic across the network.

And, the fact that gdgt focuses on the buying experience should not go unnoticed. At a time when companies like Facebook and Google are making an effort to derive extra revenue streams from e-commerce to supplement their bread and butter of advertising, it makes sense for relative Internet dinosaur AOL — which last week reported its first return to revenue growth in eight years — to explore this area, too.

Here is the official announcement from gdgt:

We’ve got some big news: we couldn’t be more excited to announce that gdgt has been acquired by AOL!

As you might recall, last year we started a fruitful partnership with the fine folks at Engadget toprovide structured product data to their site. We got to talking further and realized that gdgt, its team, its technology, and perhaps most importantly its DNA, were a natural fit for the world-class lineup of tech sites. Well, one thing led to another, and here we are. We honestly couldn’t be more excited about adding gdgt to what is easily the most powerful, influential group of technology media brands in the world.

Where we go from here
Over the last year, gdgt has only become increasingly more robust and refined, and we’re only getting started. (Related: have you seen all the great stuff we’ve been doing lately, like aggregating video reviews?)

At AOL, gdgt will only continue to grow and evolve as the best premium destination for purchase intelligence, recommendations, user reviews, shopping data, and community-driven content about personal technology. gdgt’s product database (still arguably the best around, in my highly biased opinion), community (ditto), and core technologies will serve as a crucial foundation for all kinds of great new products and services we’ll be building in the coming months.

Our event series will also expand, shall we say, as we pair up with the Engadget team on our 2013 nation-wide tour. Stay tuned for details there, too.

What this means for your data
As you might expect, over the coming months we’ll be transitioning our operations to our new parent, as well as adopting their Terms of Service and Privacy policy.

It should go without saying that we continue to completely respect your personal data and privacy, as we always have. For example, AOL has never asked us to hand data over any user for any untoward uses, so gdgt users’ email addresses aren’t going to wind up on some random mailing list after the dust settles. Makes sense, right? AOL isn’t acquiring gdgt to drive away our users. Nor would we let them.

However, we still totally understand if you don’t want your profile data to join us on this new journey. If that’s the case, starting later today (and through March 15th, 2013) just head over to your account settings to mark your account profile data for deletion.

No action is required, though! If you don’t do anything, your profile will remain intact, and we’ll just keep doing what we do to make gdgt the best possible gadget reviews and community site around. Also, the next time we see you we’ll totally give you a high five.

Roll the credits
It’s obvious, but we owe this great outcome first and foremost to the amazing team of gdgt employees, each of whom took a chance on us and stuck around to see things through. They know that all this stuff is much harder than it looks, and gdgt simply would not exist if it weren’t for their boundless passion. As founders, Peter and I are extremely grateful for the work they’ve done.

It’s also impossible to talk about gdgt’s existence without mentioning the enormous trust and faith placed in us by Tony Conrad at True Ventures, Jason Calacanis, and Mo Koyfman at Spark Capital, and our many other ridiculously smart investors like John Borthwick at Betaworks, David Lee at SV Angel, and Ken Lerer at Lerer Ventures (just to name a few!). I feel like most startups would (and should) consider themselves extraordinarily lucky to get to work with even one of those folks.

Finally, we’d like to thank Jay Kirsch, Tim Armstrong, Ned Desmond, Tim Armstrong, Tim Stevens, and all the folks at AOL who believe in our product, our team, and our DNA. We honestly couldn’t think of a finer group of folks to come work with, and we’ve got big plans together. Come watch what happens!