Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

No New Splashy Engadget Editor Yet, But AOL Site Cleaning Begins

AOL will begin rolling out its plans to overhaul its panoply of content sites as early as today, a key part of its integration with the Huffington Post, sources familiar with the situation said.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong will be sending out an internal memo on the topic soon, said sources with knowledge of the moves.

He will outline how the New York-based Internet portal, which paid $315 million to acquire the high-profile news and opinion site, will essentially close down dozens of its dedicated content sites–some being shuttered completely and others integrated with existing Huffington Post sites.

One example of the first is Politics Daily, as has been previously reported; it will no longer exist as a brand. Its staff is being integrated into the Huffington Post’s more robust political offerings.

It goes both ways, though–the Huffington Post’s travel site will be closed in favor of AOL’s stronger offering in that arena.

And still other well-known AOL brands, such as its PopEater celebrity site and its StyleList fashion and beauty site, will keep their names but no longer exist as separate destination sites. PopEater will be integrated into HuffPo’s entertainment and StyleList to its similar site.

[UPDATE: StyleList’s status was shifted just this morning–it will remain a standalone brand and AOL’s Shelterpop will become StyleList at Home, integrating into StyleList. Plus it will all now be called Stylist–losing the “e” and capped “L.”]

The changes are causing some tension within AOL, given it is a drastic shift from relatively recent efforts to expand its portfolio of editorial sites.

In fact, some insiders are calling the recent vetting of which content sites to close and which to keep as “death panels,” a somewhat dicey reference to controversies over the Obama administration’s healthcare plan.

Also on deck for tomorrow will be letters sent out to freelancers about new plans to hire some–though not all–of them. According to several sources, AOL content head Arianna Huffington outlined the plan to editors recently, stressing the need to focus on staff-generated and more journalistically focused content.

One thing that is not happening is the appointment of a new editor-in-chief for AOL’s flagship tech news site, Engadget.

BoomTown reported on the recent departure of Engadget’s top two editors, Editor-in-Chief Josh Topolsky and Managing Editor Nilay Patel.

The news rocketed around the small echo chamber that is the tech blogosphere, which is no surprise since Engadget is one of the largest sites on the Web covering the tech sector.

In the interim, staffer Darren Murph has been appointed managing editor of Engadget. He reports to Joshua Fruhlinger, editorial director for Engadget, Switched and AOL Tech. Brad Hill is the business director for the properties.

Engadget is one of the largest in tech, with 14 million unique visitors a month. Its main competitor is Gawker’s Gizmodo. AOL also owns TechCrunch, another tech news site.

An email to AOL for comment has not yet been returned.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald