TechCrunch, one of the most influential blogs in Silicon Valley, has been acquired by AOL. The deal, which was announced today at a conference in San Francisco, comes amid a series of moves by AOL to turn itself into an online publisher as its dial-up Internet access business declines. The size of the deal was not disclosed, but rumors peg the price somewhere between $25 million and $40 million.

"This wasn't supposed to happen today. This was supposed to happen later," TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington said at the company's Disrupt conference. "So we had to rush through this." Shortly after, a blog post by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong ran on TechCrunch's homepage praising the website as "a byword for breaking tech news and insight."

Rumors of a possible sale of TechCrunch first surfaced earlier this summer when Arrington announced in a blog post that he had moved his "primary residence" from Silicon Valley to Seattle. The legalistic word choice, coupled with the fact that Washington has no income tax, caused speculation on Internet comment boards that he might be preparing to sell the company. (Arrington told Inc. that being in Seattle allowed him to see his parents more regularly. He also noted that he did not own property in California.)

The sale of TechCrunch represents a windfall for Arrington, who started the company as a single blogger writing reviews of start-ups from his home, growing it to a news organization that regularly beats media heavyweights like the New York Times for scoops.

For AOL, the deal adds to a growing portfolio of small media companies. Earlier today, the company announced that it had purchased an online video-syndication company, 5min Media. Last year, the company bought Patch, a network of neighborhood websites, and in 2005 it acquired Weblogs, a blog network that includes the popular electronics site Engadget.