In a surprise move Monday night, popular software blog Download Squad became the latest tech casualty in Huffington/AOL's so-called 'consolidation' of its content sites. In an end-of-the-day email, Download Squad's staff was told that the blog was closed and they were jobless, effective immediately.
From that moment, no further blog posts were made on Download Squad.
Arguably the best, if not considered the only significant software blog, it's a move that's left more than editor Sebastian Anthony saying WTF: fans of the blog, of which there were many were just as surprised at the news.
Anthony Tweeted, "In a world where software is moving towards ubiquity, AOL-HuffPo has seen fit to shut down the best software blog on the Web. Insane."
"@M0zilla nope, no fools -- this is for real. Will be made official tomorrow morning. (...) It'll be made official in the next 12 hours, I think."
According to Anthony, the news will be official tomorrow morning.
"It seems somehow fitting that @DownloadSquad's last post is about Angry Birds..."
Strategy vs. The Buckshot Effect?
As part of the AOL merger last month with Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington became Editor In Chief of 56 sites and took the reins to make major changes. These changes included her decision to fold 30 brands (blogs) into other properties that Huffington saw as "stronger" than the absorbed brands.
Huffington's changes also include her decision to mothball brands that were at the center of AOL's content strategy only a few years ago.
Brand consolidation isn't all: for many freelancers and blogging staff it's been a fast moving massacre. Last week, Huff/AOL finished firing all freelancers at their business and finance sites - except the few writers that made the narrow cut into full-time employment.
Last Tuesday, AOL's television bloggers got an email saying, "Many of you will be receiving an email saying your services will no longer be required." However, they were invited "to remain as part of our non-paid blogger system."
It was later said that [AOL blog] Moviephone's Editor was scapegoated by AOL/HuffPo for the upsetting emails, a move than angered [AOL blog] Cinematical's Eric D. Snider.
Download Squad Will Be Missed
Download Squad was part of AOL Tech, including TechCrunch, TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog), Massively, WoW Insider, Joystiq, Switched, and Engadget. The weekend of March 12 saw Engadget having a significant walkout by Editor-In-Chief Johsua Topolsky and Managing Editor Nilay Patel.
Download Squad was a very popular blog, and the sudden shutdown has many in shock. One of the Weblogs, Inc. blogs, it was named among Computerworld's list of the ten best written blogs in 2008.
Getting laid off via email is not a positive way to end a great blog - and we're told that traffic was good. Here's hoping the talented staff move on to more expansive opportunities.
What do you think? Was Huffington's move to "cancel the Download" a good idea - or is she out of her depth? Talk back in the comments and let us know.