AOL to Acquire Maplewood. Sort Of.

patch(Welcome, New York Times readers.)

Comes today the news that AOL is acquiring, the owner of Maplewood Patch, a stalwart member of the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM. (I’ll have you know I taught myself how to hand-code that superscript in HTML.)  Maplewood Patch, by way of disclosure, has seen fit to publish some articles I have written, and they even slipped me a few bucks in exchange.

Because of my previous coverage of Patch on this blog, I got a personal email (it started, “Hi Kirk”) from a media relations guy at AOL, along with a copy of the release.  My immediate thought was, in the spirit of my previous Maplewood coverage, how can I have fun with this news?

I first considered conspiracy rumors.  I knew that Tim Armstrong, a senior Google executive, was a major investor in Patch.  In March, he left Google to become CEO of AOL.  So, let’s review:

  1. Patch gets launched with Google exec’s money
  2. Google exec bolts for AOL in March
  3. AOL announces acquisition of Patch in June

I quickly realized that there probably was some boring explanation for this suspicious sequence of events — but I would not be deterred that easily.

Maybe… um… maybe this is some kind of “reverse Trojan horse” scheme?  I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds cool.  Is Google planning to acquire AOL?  Or is AOL going to acquire Google?  I know! Patch is going to acquire AOL and Google!  I could make fun of all three organizations by speculating about which outcome is least likely.

My next thought was, I could call the PR guy and mess with his head.  As a long-time PR guy myself, I know what kind of pressure he would be under on an announcement day. I’d start out with some innocuous questions to gain his trust, then I’d go all weird on him.

I could read him the CEO quotation from the press release (“Local remains one of the most disaggregated experiences on the Web today…”), then ask, “Does Tim Armstrong really talk like that?” And then, “Does Mr. Armstrong use (AOL’s) MapQuest now, or does he still secretly use Google Maps?”  With a new CEO in the building and a story that involves him personally, the PR guy would just love dealing with flaky questions about the boss.

Hm… Gratuitous cruelty to a guy doing a high-pressure job — that’s not usually how I roll.   Well, let’s just see what the boring explanation is.

I introduced myself over the phone to Chris Savarese of AOL Corporate Communications, and he said “You’re with All That Is Necessary, right?” I’m apparently on his media list — how cool is that?  How could I even think about tormenting him?

It turns out Armstrong recused himself from the decision to buy Patch. OK, that makes sense.  Kara Swisher, who’s an actual journalist, was all over the story first thing this morning.

I had one last arrow in my quiver.  “Is there some sort of juicy Maplewood angle to this?” I asked Savarese.  Uh, not really.

I thanked him and hung up, thinking, how the heck am I going to make a blog post out of this?