Patch Problems in Paradise? Why the Scorched Web?

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carla's picture
Last seen: 3 years 10 weeks ago
Joined: 2008-01-03 :36

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This was sent to me today by a media professional from out of state who knows I like the local Patch efforts. I find these web articles kind of sad to read, almost surprising in fact.

I will note that I have done freelance photography for Patch in the past, and hopefully my posting this will not adversely affect that capability. Of course if it does, it will make for an interesting follow-up post, right? But I figure this is newsworthy since Patch is becoming such a big part of our online lives locally and I have noticed other news outlets mimicking the Patch concept.

Patch has acquired a lot of local newsie folks we know and love, too, hasn't it? It seems to be big business around here.

There are Patch micro new sites all over the country and I have seen them in other states where friends and family live and I still like the concept since local news is a fading art form.

I am curious as to how everyone feels about Patch now that they have been around here a while? Read the below and feel free to post your thoughts - I just don't know what to think.

Now check out what I am calling "Scorched Web on Patch":

LEAKED: The $1,000 CPM Patch Rate Card
Nicholas Carlson | Jul. 20, 2011, 12:26 PM

In hopes of finding a way to replace its declining dial-up business, AOL is investing ~$150 million into a network of local news sites called Patch.

(AOL is also investing in the Huffington Post, which it acquired during the spring.)

We've been speaking with current and former Patch employees about whether or not the experiment is working. We also heard from a Patch advertiser.

The latest source we've spoken to is still a salesperson at Patch. This person is not happy, and is looking to quit as soon as possible.


The salesperson says one reason is that "corporate does not care one bit about their clients whatsoever."

Confessions Of Patch Salesperson: "It's Been A Disaster"
Nicholas Carlson | Jun. 8, 2011, 4:33 PM

AOL SHAKE-UP: Patch Gets A New Boss, Tim Steps In, And Arianna Consolidates Power
Nicholas Carlson | Jun. 28, 2011, 11:02 AM

Confessions Of A Patch Editor: "The Model Isn't Sustainable"
Nicholas Carlson | Jun. 10, 2011, 11:20 AM

Of course, this is not the only online seemingly professional criticism of Patch, here are a couple more:

July 1, 2011
Patch is the news industry's problem, not its solution
Written by Robert Niles

Jack Shafer's right: hyperlocal efforts are "a complete waste of time and resources" as he suggested this week in Slate.
Shafer missed one crucial qualifier in his hypothesis, though. Hyperlocal's a waste of time and money for national corporations. What's happening in the news industry today is not the Internet destroying the news industry by spreading free content. It's the Internet destroying the national news chain by eliminating of the traditional economies of scale for the news industry.

Shafer bases his arguments on continued criticisms of AOL's network. Hey, I teed off on Patch nearly a year ago, so I share the skepticism. But Shafer errs in not even mentioning locally-owned and operated hyperlocal news sites, much less contrasting them with the top-down, corporate-driven AOL/Patch model for hyperlocal coverage.

In Shafer's piece, the alternative to Patch are sites such as Facebook, social networks where residents in a community can get what Shafer calls "social news" about their "interests," as opposed to "hyperlocal news": "the starving-artists exhibition at the farmer's market, increasing parking-meter rates, the city budget, local real estate prices."

But there's an alternative to corporate news chains and corporate social networks: homegrown news communities run by local journalists. That's a model we're encouraging by training dozens of journalist/entrepreneurs in our annual KDMC News Entrepreneur Boot Camps. Freed from the burden of paying for a national management team and Wall Street expectations, local journalists can make hyperlocal pay in ways that big companies such as AOL simply can't.

Why I find AOL's Patch sites so off-putting.
By Jack Shafer
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011, at 6:42 PM ET

Is it too late in the game to call hyperlocal efforts a complete waste of time and resources?

Business Insider comes close to convincing me that Patch, AOL's network of hyperlocal sites in 18 states, has little chance of succeeding unless it imitates Groupon and LivingSocial and enters the daily-deals business. Of course, imitating Groupon would not validate the hyperlocal-news idea; it would only validate the daily-deals idea, which needs no validating....If we accept Business Insider's diagnosis of Patch as a business failure, will anybody step forward to make the case that the sites are a journalistic success? I've yet to read that piece. Even hyperlocal enthusiasts like Brian J. Manzullo, who has given the topic ample thought, backs away. One excuse frequently tendered on Patch's behalf is that even though it already has 800 staffers, it's still ramping up. Maybe Patch has a glorious future before it. Business Insider reports that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says that some of the early Patches will soon be profitable.

My local Patch isn't terrible, but I visit it primarily out of professional duty.

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bobguzzardi's picture
Last seen: 2 years 13 weeks ago
Joined: 2006-01-13 :07

Thanks Citizen Journalist Carla. This is most interesting. I have found PATCH in Abington and Ardmore Bryn Mawr to be very good.

Cheryl Allison sets a standard and, of course, citizen journalist you set a standard for local news that is of interest.

Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
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john Haines's picture
Last seen: 2 years 35 weeks ago
Joined: 2009-07-15 :31

Who really needs Patch? The real news is right
here on The Save Ardmore Coalition.

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dmuth's picture
Last seen: 10 weeks 5 days ago
Joined: 2005-09-12 :35

Thanks for the plug, John!

Truth be told, I myself am a big fan of the Patch.  They have the time, resources, and infrastructure to run a site properly.  They also have professional reporters.  I, on the other hand, am definitely not a professional reporter.  I'm biased, write poorly, and can even be not very nice at times.

I think the Patch fills a niche that the local papers haven't yet caught up with.  It'd be a shame to see it go.


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bobguzzardi's picture
Last seen: 2 years 13 weeks ago
Joined: 2006-01-13 :07

I find the Patch very informative and a nice complement to SAC and to Cheryl Allison's reporting.

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regular_grind's picture
Last seen: 3 years 23 weeks ago
Joined: 2011-02-12 :12

I think the Patch has a future if AOL can fine tune the infrastructure as needs and problems become apparent. AOL has experience as a pioneer in new ventures, as we all know. This time around they need to evolve and fine tune the business plan on a continual basis. If they can, the Patch will grow exponentially. With the new management it has the potential to do so.

I think there is a definite need for both this list serv and the Patch. I've been active in community organizations and the only problem is that meetings must end after two or three hours. Not everyone has a chance to be heard. Some people with good ideas cannot attend the meeting. This forum gives everyone a chance to be heard.

The Patch, on the other hand, is a good forum for news. It has the advantage of the presence of an editor acting as gatekeeper. The editor can fine tune the home page to make it interesting reading for everyone. The editor can help find the best stories.

Quite frankly, I can see an advertisor who only wants to reach his or her immediate neighborhood, such as the local hardware store or dry cleaner. The Patch is ideal for them. On the other hand another advertisor,such as an auto dealer. may want a larger regional audience  The MLT may be best for them. And then, there is Lower Merion TV which I always find informative and entertaining.



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puffs19003's picture
Last seen: 6 years 17 weeks ago
Joined: 2009-10-13 :21

I think Patch is a nice addition to local news.  I get it delivered to my phone everyday and get quick updates on local happenings and especially township council news.  I would miss PATCH.

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