Resurgent AOL Buys StudioNow, Hires ex-Googler

Since being released from its Time Warner shackles, AOL has been tearing up the media landscape, hiring journalists and launching a custom content-creation service called Seed.com (run by former New York Times staffer Saul Hansell). Now the former online behemoth is adding video to the mix by acquiring StudioNow Inc. for $36.5 million in cash and stock in a deal announced today. In another significant move, the company has also added a new head of technology to its New York-based unit, a former Google employee named Jeff Raynar.

The addition of StudioNow — a 2-year-old video startup based in Nashville — will allow AOL to expand its efforts to generate custom content through its Seed service, a venture that is designed to rapidly and cheaply produce articles that conform to heavily searched terms and keywords.

This is a business that Demand Media is also going after in a big way. Demand has its own video content-generation unit, known as Demand Studio, that accomplishes the same thing StudioNow will for AOL. Liz, writing over at NewTeeVee, had some thoughts here about the Demand model, and Jeremy Reed of Demand talked about the company and video at NewTeeVee’s “Next Big Thing” event.

AOL’s CEO and chairman Tim Armstrong said in the release that:

“Premium original video creation is a fundamental part of AOL’s strategy to offer consumers world-class, stimulating content at scale and the integration of StudioNow into Seed.com will enable us to increase our video content/offerings significantly.”

StudioNow also helps companies produce their own videos and syndicates them, something it will continue to do for AOL’s “branded advertising and content partners,” in addition to AOL properties such as Engadget or AOL Sessions. The acquisition closed on Jan. 22 and some of the purchase price will be paid out over multiple years.

AOL also announced that former Google engineer Jeff Raynar will be joining the company as the head of technology at its New York technology center. Reynar is the co-founder of DBT Labs, a social search startup, but also spent four and a half years at Google, where he co-founded and led an internal team that developed Google Squared — an experimental search tool that gathers facts from the web and presents them in an organized collection — and Google Blog Search. Reynar also led the Search UI team in New York.

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