Saul Hansell surprised many when he quit the New York Times after 17 years to join AOL. That was less than two years ago. He's now leaving AOL to become entrepreneur-in-residence at New York venture firm Betaworks. "I have been watching people go start things for a long time and now I want to go start things,” says Hansell, founding editor of New York Times' Bits blog. (Here's a 2009 post on AOL's "ambition and failure" that he wrote shortly before joining the company.) Is he now jumping off a sinking ship?
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.Hansell says it's too soon to say much about his plans, "but I think there is a lot left to invent around both how to present news to people that takes advantage of the technology available today."