Betaworks just got an entrepreneur-in-residence with some old and new media cred: Saul Hansell, former Timesman and the founding editor of the Grey Lady’s Bits blog just announced he’s coming aboard. Mr. Hansell headed up AOL’s freelance network, Seed.com (now “in the process of reformatting” and not giving out any new assignments, hm) before AOL bought the Huffington Post. “Seed is in fact thriving and will continue stronger than ever as part of AOL’s Advertising.com group, which is devoted to providing the best tools to online publishers and marketers,” Mr. Hansell wrote at the time.
I am very proud of what we achieved at Seed over the last year. And I’m just as proud of what we didn’t do. Despite our reputation as “hellish scheme” dedicated to “slapdash, disposable content churned out en masse,” we didn’t pollute the Web with millions of articles that would be embarrassing even in a high school newspaper. Rather, we worked on ways to respect our creators and our audience by creating formats that delivered lively, useful and reliable information that writers can produce efficiently. You can see the results in articles like these: What Is Christine O’Donnell’s Religion?, Giardia in Dogs: What You Need to Know as a Dog Owner, and Jack Daniel’s Drinks: 4 Drink Ideas From a Bartender.
Right! So: Seed was a big flop seems to be what he’s saying there, no? Either way, Mr. Hansell became Big News editor for HuffPo in May. That lasted a little under six months. Now, Mr. Hansell joins his old buddy John Borthwick at what is obviously a better job, EIR at Betaworks, a company that is not crushing the creative spirits of its employees.
But wait! It’s not that, Mr. Hansell insists: “I know my friends in the technology press well enough to suspect some of them will see my move as part of a broader trend at AOL. I’m not sure the easy take is the right one. Based on my experience, I am more bullish on Tim Armstrong’s clear vision of a company built from the ground up for online journalism and the potential of AOL’s many assets to achieve that vision.”
Indeed. HuffPo, while ruthless and depraved, has given AOL a breath of new life—Arianna Huffington’s newsroom is fast-paced, agile, inventive and we’re told, has been given a lot of control over its better halves in the rest of the AOL empire.
At any rate, with Mr. Hansell’s wide range of experience going from NYT to AOL, he should fit right in at the incubator/innovation lab that has produced publisher tools such as Chartbeat and SocialFlow as well as consumption tools such as Findings and News.me.