SB Nation Sacks AOL in Raid of Former Engadget Team for Competing New Tech Site, As AOL Zeroes in on New EiC
Jim Bankoff, the fomer AOL exec responsible for buying Engadget for the Internet portal, has grabbed eight staffers who had recently left the huge tech site amid tensions, in order to start a new gadget property.
The site–which is still unnamed and will be run by outgoing Engadget Editor-in-Chief Josh Topolsky–will debut sometime in the fall. It is the first content expansion at the Washington, D.C. sports news site SB Nation, which is helmed by Bankoff.
“The technology we built is applicable beyond sports,” said Bankoff, in an interview with BoomTown tonight. “It was an opportunity to apply our model…into another content category where there was an overlap in demographics.”
That would be fanboys and, well, boys-who-will-be-boys.
UPDATE: In related news, sources said that AOL has zeroed in on Tim Stevens, Engadget’s automotive editor to replace the outgoing Topolsky. The New York-based company had already named Darren Murph as its new managing editor.
Now Stevens will be competing with Topolsky, as well as managing editor Nilay Patel, who will also lead the Engadget tech-exodus (techxodus?). The others include former Engadget staffers Paul Miller, Joanna Stern, Ross Miller, Chris Ziegler, Justin Glow and Dan Chilton.
Stern and Ziegler are still on Engadget’s editors site as current employees.
All of the above had left Engadget in a series of departures of late, all due to increasing unhappiness with AOL’s management and content strategy.
Paul Miller and Ross Miller, who are not related, both stated publicly that they did not like the editorial direction AOL was going in, especially a controversial content strategy document titled “The AOL Way.”
In his blog post, Topolsky threw another smackadoo at AOL, noting “SB Nation believes in real, independent journalism and the potential for new media to serve as an answer and antidote to big publishing houses and SEO spam–a point we couldn’t be more aligned on.”
New AOL content head Arianna Huffington has shifted toward a more journalistic path, but the talent bleed began before AOL’s $315 million purchase of the Huffington Post.
In a blog post, which is embedded below, Topolsky said the new SB Nation gadget site will be similar in pace and topic, but it will be broader than Engadget.
The move is an interesting one for SB Nation, which completed a $10.5 million Series C round, led by Khosla Ventures, in the fall.
It had already raised about $13 million in total venture funding from Accel Partners, Allen & Company and Comcast Interactive Capital, as well as from angel investors such as Ted Leonsis and others in Silicon Valley.
In related news, also restarting tomorrow will be a popular gadget podcast that Topolsky, Patel and Paul Miller had done for Engadget.
The New York Times’ David Carr mentioned the new site in the middle of a column earlier tonight.
Here is Topolsky’s blog post on the move, titled “This Is My Next Project”:
As you may have already heard (or read), there’s some activity going on in the world of Joshua Topolsky. Earlier this evening, David Carr published a piece in the New York Times about a new project that I’m embarking on…and I want to just say a few things about it.
Firstly: yes, this is happening. I’ve decided to join the team at SB Nation to build something brand new in the tech space. Now I know it might seem odd to some that I would be partnering with a sports publisher to build a technology news site, but that’s only half the story. This isn’t just about sports, or tech, or lone silos. What we will build together at SB Nation is a new media company–buoyed by the absolutely incredible work SB Nation has already done in publishing–and part of that new media company will be the as-yet-unnamed gadget and technology site that I’ll be working over the next few months to create. When we launch (hopefully in the fall), I will be editor-in-chief of a property that I hope will inform, entertain, and engage fans of technology in whole new ways.
I should say that I wouldn’t want to build something like this alone, and thankfully, I won’t have to. I’ll be joined by some very good friends at this new venture–people like Nilay Patel, for instance.
Of course, the natural question I’m sure a lot of people have is: why SB Nation? The easy answer is that the people at SB Nation share my vision of what publishing looks like in the year 2011. They think that the technology used to create and distribute news on the web (and mobile) is as important as the people who are responsible for the content itself. And that’s not just pillow talk–SB Nation is actively evolving its tools and processes to meet the growing and changing needs of its vast editorial teams and their audience communities. They’re building for the web as it is now. From the perspective of a journalist who also happens to be a huge nerd, that’s a match made in heaven. SBN isn’t just another media company pushing news out–it’s a testbed and lab for some of the newest and most interesting publishing tools I’ve ever seen. In short, I was blown away when I saw what kind of technology they’re using to get news on their front page and engage audiences, and even more blown away when I started talking to them about what could come next.
But beyond the technology (and possibly more important than the technology), there’s another factor here that’s driving my decision. It’s that SB Nation believes in real, independent journalism and the potential for new media to serve as an answer and antidote to big publishing houses and SEO spam–a point we couldn’t be more aligned on. This is a group of people that not only think independent media works, but are reaping the rewards of new publishing done right. As the fastest growing online sports publisher, they’re seen as a source for credible and honest journalism, which is why industry stalwarts like Rob Neyer have recently joined their ranks (ranks which include hundreds of talented sports experts). This isn’t tabloid page grabbing or content farming–it’s news and insight by and for a passionate and informed group of people. And that’s exactly where I want to be.
So, what happens next? We get to work.
In the coming months I’m going to be laser focused on one thing: building the best tech site in the world–and I would love to hear what you guys think the next phase in technology and gadget news should look like. Ping me with ideas, gripes, or even better–come and work here! SB Nation is looking for new developers as we speak, and as we ramp up to launch, we’ll be bringing on lots of talent to work both on the front page and behind the scenes.
I couldn’t be more excited and enthusiastic about what we can build right now, and I can’t wait to share what we’re going to make with the rest of the world. The months ahead are going to be filled with lots of early mornings and sleepless nights, intense debates, triumphs, and trials–and I can’t wait.