AOL’s loss is clearly SB Nation’s gain. CEO Jim Bankoff, himself a former AOL exec, says the company’s profile just shot up as a result of this talent snatch. “While sports has been the core of the company, and we’ll continue to invest there, this allows us to enter a second category,” Bankoff said.
And though AOL has wavered in its content focus—swaying from preaching about the importance of professional journalists, to working with thousands of freelancers to crank out search-friendly articles, and now turning back to professionals—SB Nation insists it will focus on writers. “We do think talent matters in this business,” Bankoff adds.
For his part, Nilay Patel, the former Endgadget managing editor who joined the Topolsky-led exodus, insists the departures should not be seen as a sign of problems with AOL’s management—or as frustration with Michael Arrington’s attacks on the site. “Engadget is fantastic,” he said. “It built my career. Before I got there I was just another guy in Chicago. The team that is left there is great. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Patel added that SB Nation offered their team not only a chance to build a new brand. But he saved his greatest passion for his new employer’s publishing technology.
“Their content management system is the most amazing thing I have ever seen,” he said without a hint of irony. “They are a technology company, not a blog company…at AOL we were using tools that weren’t under our control. This is a generation ahead of most blog software.”