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It’s a Ronco kind of day for folks who cover AOL (NYSE: AOL) — you think you’re done and then the company says, but, wait, there’s more. For the last one (today), paidContent can confirm that AOL has acquired Thing Labs and its Brizzly social media reader. It’s also acquiring a new management team: the Thing Labs team, headed by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Blogger vet Jason Shellen, will run AIM, AOL Lifestream and Brizzly, reporting to Brad Garlinghouse, president of consumer applications.
No terms are being disclosed. (Louis Gray, who first reported that an announcement was coming today, puts the payout at $18 million with earnouts that would take it near $30 million.) Thing Labs, founded in 2007 by Shellen and Chris Wetherell , was funded by Polaris Venture Partners (repped by Mike Hirshland), Jeff Clavier, and *MySpace* CEO Michael Jones in a first round pegged at $600,000.
Garlinghouse says adding Brizzly and its developers fits in with the evolution of Lifestream, which has about 5 million users a year. “We feel good about that but there’s still a bigger opportunity and these guys bring an arsenal of ammunition to apply to that.” Shellen, who was the founding product manager of Google Reader and is on the RSS Board, gets the need to harness the power of social and media streams — and to organize them in ways that highlight quality over noise.
When I suggested AOL pick up Xmarks and Bloglines too while they have the wallet open (it wouldn’t take much), Garlinghouse laughed a little but stressed the need to focus. “We are trying to be very focused in our M&A strategy. Having lived through the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) experience where I think sometimes the lack of focus contributed to the confusion of ‘what are we as a company,’ it’s nice to see us remain very focused on a content-centric strategy. The Brizzly acquisition fits well within that: it’s about how do we make content more social, as well.” The Thing Labs team talks about the acquisition in a blog post here.
Thing Labs itself made two small acquisitions in March, buying up Wikirank, a tool that let users visualize and compare the most popular topics on Wikipedia, as well as Twitter iPhone client Birdfeed.
TechCrunch reported earlier this month that a deal was in the works.
For more about Thing Labs, Brizzly products and the fit with AOL, check out Gray’s in-depth look and Marshall Kirkpatrick’s take. One potentially valuable product I should have mentioned earlier: Brizzly Picnics, a group chat service that aggregates social media from a variety of places within specific groups.
And from Thing Labs, a post announcing the merger with AOL: “First things first: Brizzly is sticking around. Of course anything can happen in the future, but nowhere on our list of things to do is there a