Patch Pushback: Warren Webster Fires Back Amid Analysis and Criticism | Street Fight

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Patch Pushback: Warren Webster Fires Back Amid Analysis and Criticism

41 Comments 28 September 2011 by

Besides the drubbing Groupon has taken lately, few have withstood more blows from the media than AOL (as of this writing) and its hoped-for field of greens known as Patch.

Others have reported insiders calculating the losses for this year, less revenues, will be around $130 million. Some see that as an investment in the future (AOL) others see it as a big fat waste of money (Insider). Many happy advertisers on Patch disagree.

But no matter how you see the end game — flames or fortune — the hyperlocal sausage is getting made before our eyes and it’s not always pretty, though occasionally it’s entertaining and sometimes surprisingly compelling.

After the latest spate of not-great “news” (from AOL possibly  tying up with Yahoo to reports of Patch editors being asked to source sales leads), I thought maybe it’s time to tap the source for opinions rather than just refracted information and rumors.

I queried Warren Webster, president of Patch, trying to penetrate the PR pros and get at what’s really going on. A Q&A with him follows below. But I’ve also spoken to Patch editors, going for a view from the bottom up. I’ve talked in the recent past to Brian Farnham, Patch’s editor in chief, and I’ve consumed a good deal of commentary from bloggers ranging from those with a passing interest to those whose lives seem devoted to mowing Patches.

The upshot? There’s no simple answer to the question of what’s going on with AOL’s giant bet (financially as well as symbolically). But a few things are fairly clear to these eyes:

Patch management is constantly re-evaluating the tactics of fulfilling their model. But the overall strategy of building big and leveraging “local” to drive revenue from new sources to push traffic upward to AOL advertising and content — that seems intact.

The money tree may be losing its leaves. According to reports, management appears to be pulling back at least on freelancer budgets, from a couple thousand a month for large Patches down to possibly nothing (I was told by one insider) next year. UPDATE: A Patch spokesperson said this is not the case. Patch’s Janine Iamunno said with “100 percent” certainty the company is not moving toward $0 spend on freelancers.

Awareness is lacking outside of the industry. Ask people in a Patch town if they know about Patch. Chances may be good as bad that they’ll know what it is (in my unscientific study). For my wife, AOL.com is the default first stop when she flips open her laptop. And what’s right there square in the middle? A promotion for our local Patch. Perfect. Needless to say, among this group, awareness is high. But not everyone starts with AOL and that can be a continuing thorn in the company’s side. I think it’s an overlooked challenge, and one that could be lessened by properly placed campaigns. Furthermore, this is actually good news for the company: Patch still has a large untapped market ahead.

There are no plans to sell off community sites, period.  The company is very committed to Patch as a strategic investment.
~ Warren Webster, President

Patch represents an achievement difficult to tally. Patch may stand the best chance of filling in where newspapers have fallen away, but it’s difficult to assess by its remarkable infrastructure alone — perhaps like touching an elephant’s tail in a dark room and thinking it’s a kitten. And the jury is still out on the viability of creating a meaningful sub-network where people across the country can find predictability in local information.

I put a few questions to Warren Webster directly, trying as I might to get at the root of what’s going on inside the swirling world of AOL’s local bet, especially in light of a Tim Armstrong (AOL CEO; essentially, Warren’s boss) comment at the Goldman Sachs conference last week indicating that Patch could hit the chopping block at some point. He played along with expected positive speak but also plenty of informed offensive pushback, in a rare instance of poking back at critics. There’s also avoidance, but his words might actually be revealing more for what is left out — wade through some of the boilerplate with me to some insights from Webster:

Did Tim Armstrong (AOL CEO) suggest that underperforming community sites could be sold off? If not, what did he mean?
No. There are no plans to sell off community sites, period. The company is very committed to Patch as a strategic investment.

People leave companies all the time, but generally not when they are happy. Patch has lost some senior folks on the sales side. Why?
As we’ve evolved our sales team, we’ve made some strategic changes in how we run the revenue side of our business. We’re confident in the leadership that we now have in place there. I don’t see these changes as anything other than moving forward as a company and building out the team that we want to run a very large, distributed sales force.

There are many measures of success — standing up over 800 sites in less than two years; hiring about a thousand people; launching your own deals service. However if there is no evidence of profitability then you’ve failed. How much time is needed before Patch at large can be “profitable” or “cost neutral”? 
Right off the bat, let me push back on this: “if there is no evidence of profitability then you’ve failed.” We are succeeding on a number of levels, and our users and advertising clients remind us of that every day. Building something as ambitious and important to communities as Patch is a long-term investment. We’ve said that since day one.

We continue to be amazed at how quickly the sites have been adopted in their communities, both by residents and businesses.  Our business plan is right on track, and while we obviously can’t comment on timeline, we couldn’t be happier about the track we’re on.  We strategically and purposefully started phase 1 by building a scalable platform, investing in journalists, investing in communities, and are very happy with the progress on phase 2, which is providing the best, most effective platform for businesses in local communities. We’ve shipped our latest product, we’re getting great feedback from advertisers (locally, regionally, and nationally), and we’re continuing to create innovative products to support our mission.

How many communities are planning to build? You’re at 840 now?
We’re in about 863 communities now, and we’ve said we’ll be in close to 1,000 by year’s end.

Building something as ambitious and important to communities as Patch is a long-term investment.

Also, given the strategic value Patch might offer other properties does it even need to stand on its own financially?
The fact that anyone is even asking that question highlights the value we’ve created in Patch! We definitely expect Patch to stand on its own financially and be an enormously valuable company, but you bring up a great point — there is even more value when you look at it in the bigger context of AOL. Patch is an extremely valuable asset given our success to date – and we plan to make it even more valuable.

Almost everything comes back to traffic, doesn’t it? So what more can Patch execs and editors do to drive up numbers?
According to publicly available comScore numbers, Patch traffic has increased 250% since the beginning of 2011.  In July comScore showed us at nearly 9M monthly UVs, in August we grew to  over 10M UVs.  And of course, comScore is more geared toward national/international sites —  our internal numbers are significantly higher.

Ultimately we look at traffic success not in aggregate but on an individual site level, and we’re very happy that our newer sites are growing at the same or greater pace than our older, more established sites.  Really, it’s all about how many people in a town use Patch and that’s what we focus on.

I realize not all unique visitors and pageviews carry the same weight. For instance one journalist recently compared your numbers to those of The Huffington Post (referring to the human-power it takes to drive said traffic) which to my mind misses the point. Huffington Post has a lot of empty calories under those links — non-targeted, etc. Patch it would seem could make the argument that each unique or PV is worth more than a PV at HuffPo. Is there any truth there?
It’s true that we look at UVs differently.  Huffington Post is extraordinarily successful building an audience from anywhere and everywhere, which is great. We look at the percentage of the population of each of our communities that visit the sites regularly and what they do when they’re there. These visitors are much more valuable to Patch than any national or untargeted traffic. So while aggregate numbers may be smaller, we’re fine with that, because our individual site numbers are so good. That’s what matters to us. Comparing the two sites is comparing apples to oranges.

Is Patch merging any editorial operations with The Huffington Post local sites?
We work very closely together, we share content, we collaborate on larger regional stories, and have a very symbiotic and productive  relationship. We don’t manage them together, but we are close partners. [Which is neither a yes nor a no.]

I don’t suppose you’ll want to comment on a report suggesting Patch sales is looking to spread revenue around several cities for appearance purposes?
This is not an accurate view of what we do.  Part of the reason we built Patch at a large scale was because we talked to many businesses, ranging from main street SMBs to large blue-chip advertisers.  All of them, without exception, like the idea of piecing together the audiences that are most important to them.  Patch is designed for that.  If campaigns run across multiple Patches, that’s why.  It’s a huge part of the value of Patch.

Patch president Warren Webster will be among the top executives who will be gathering in New York on October 25th and 26th at the Street Fight Summit to talk about the future of sustainable hyperlocal business models. Click here to reserve your ticket today!

Rick Robinson’s Turf Talk column appears every Wednesday on Street Fight.

  • Mel Taylor

    With all due respect, Warren Webster should not be discussing sales & revenue. That is not his expertise. That non-expertise likely contributed to the poor hires and lack of  sales. Patch suffers from similar mis-steps that hurt hyper local efforts from TBD, Gannett, NYT and Main Street Connect.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

      It’s hilarious reading all of you d-bags make these comments as if you really know what you’re talking about. Patch is suffering because Business Insider and the minions who re-report his garbage say so? How hard is it to find 10 disgruntled current or former employees of AOL/Patch and have them trash the business when the company hires more than 2000 people? Well, Business Insider appears to have found about three or four of them. Wow. That’s some incredible source reporting.

       The downturn of AOL’s stock has nothing to do with Patch. Patch is inconsistent. Patch is poorly marketed. Patch does have a lot of young, inexperienced reporters. But so does every other small-town local news organization that is or has tried to cover news for the area a Patch is in right now.

      Patch suffers from none of the missteps taken by TBD Main Street or NYT. TBD’s misstep was that it had spineless executives who pulled the plug on the project before it was even a year old. That’s a joke.

      New York Times did the same thing.

      I do not know very many large companies that make profits in their first year or two of existence so I am really confused as to why Patch should be any different. Like all companies, the executives created a plan to profits and every time I see someone from Patch comment, they say that they are on schedule to profit based on their plans. No one has shown me any proof that they are lying.

      Business Insider drubbed up a pitiful article that showed Patch is making money but he tried to say that only a few were making money and that Patch was tryng to take that money and spread it over 100 Patch sites to show that they all made a profit, and as if that’s troubling. Who cares if one site makes $125 million and the other 800 make $1? That one site can continue funding the other 800 until they can reach a profit and if those sites don’t reach a profit by the time Patch execus gave it, then they can pull the plug and go with the Patch sites that do make money.

      As a follower of hyperlocal news and the forces involved, I am completely tired of reading stupid comments from people who think they know and from unethical garbage blogs like here and Business Insider.

      Patch’s biggest news problem now is the inconsistency from site to site, so it’s a crap’s shoot if your community Patch will be a real source of news or a fluffy joke on the Internet. It’s biggest financial problem is the lack of marketing Patch has committed to in these areas. Even after 18 months, many many people still have no clue what Patch is. And that’s a problem.

      • http://twitter.com/basilpuglisi Basil C. Puglisi

        The numbers don’t lie bud, and I am a former employee, one of many. Patch is in trouble by the numbers and by the lack of campaign they are running. You can try and argue with data, and I say that the same applies to Patch advertisers, with 800 Patches I hope they have at least a few success stories.

        • David

          I am also a former employee. I thought the ideas was a great one but unfortunately corporate took over and hired the wrong folk to lead.
          I many times offered my insight and recommendations only to fall on deaf ears.  I feel this company is doomed. Sorry, but the numbers don’t lies

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

            Again, what numbers are we talking about. David, they very well may have hired the wrong people. I personally think Patch went backwards in how it should have operated. Instead of hiring mostly young, fresh out of college writers and handing them the responsibility of running a news site, they should have hired more experienced journalists at salaries of $50,000 to $60,000 and gave them the keys to the sites and then hire some of these younger writers to do some of the legwork for them. Most of these sites are operated my extremely under-qualified people and it shows on many sites. Then there is the problem of some of these Patch editors trying to run their sites like a newspaper, and not even realizing that they are doing it. Patch isn’t a newspaper or an online newspaper. It was supposed to be more than that. Patch should have allowed each site have more freedom instead of making every site do the same thing. HQ sent down orders for all 800 sites to write about the same stuff, and that was a horrible idea. But a better idea would let each Patch focus on what the journalist is best at doing or what the community wants. But none of this is evidence that Patch is not going to work. If AOL sticks with this and ignores all of this negative press from a few troublemakers, they can make this work. But it will require a major revamp in mission and for some changes in leadership. And some more experienced journalists should be running those sites. Patch should have required 5-8 years of news covering experience before anyone would even be considered for a Patch editor job. But they actually hired kids who hadn’t even covered a government meeting yet, and that’s just bad hiring and bad planning.

            But as soon as someone quits, gets fired or leaves AOL, they seem to call up Business Insider or post on here trashing the company.

            Numbers don’t lie and neither does the truth.

          • Insider

            Pink is right. The various Patch sites are very hit or miss, depending on who’s at the helm. Our town had a great, experienced editor who had lived here for years. She quit–too many 80-hour weeks and too many inane directives from HQ–and the new guy is an inexperienced, incompetent doof. I agree that Patch has great potential, but until the execs are replaced–or figure out that the local editors are the key to the whole game and, therefore, must be listened to and treated fairly–success is by no means assured.  No smalltown advertiser is going to put $$ into a fluffball operation headed by an incompetent.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

            Anyone who quit over the HQ directives has personal problems and anyone who worked 80 hour weeks didn’t know how to manage their job. I’ve worked many jobs in community journalism that required a lot of work but I was able to manage that work week in 40-55 hours. That journalist couldn’t have been THAT experienced. Sounds like an egotistical whiner

          • Insider

            So you’ve worked for Patch, have you Pink? If so, why not share your site’s URL with us and let us be the job? If not, maybe you don’t know what you don’t know. And speaking of egotistical whiners…

          • Insider

            …”let us be the judge.”

          • out of work writer

            Pink, you are so correct about this. These young, well-meaning wet behind the ears college kids are giving their all, but they don’t understand the business end and Patch should not have “cheaped out” on hiring experienced editors to control the local sites.

            I wrote a column for 13 patch communities for the past year and just got an email that they are cutting their freelance budget and I’m out. My column was one of the most popular and had been picked up by 13 different local cities for the past year. If they cut me, who’s next?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

          Who said I am trying to argue with data? Or you? The  problem here is Business Insider isn’t fiddling with the numbers; he is using the correct numbers but making a false correlation. What numbers are you talking about, Basil? I just said that the marketing has been a complete flop. But for Business Insider to say Patch made $25 million, but it’s using smoke and mirrors to show that it made $25 million makes no sense. If two Patch sites make $25 million, does it really matter that Patch takes that $25 million and spread it out over all of Patch to make as many sites as profitable as possible even though those sites may not have the actual advertising dollars? If one single Patch site can carry the dollars needed for 10 other Patch sites, then that region is profitable because of that one Patch site. Money is money. So, if Patch spends $125 million annually, then Patch needs $100 million more to break even. Well, that $100 million may come from 500 of the 1000 Patch sites, but does that mean Patch didn’t break even?

          No, the numbers don’t lie, Basil. But former disgruntled employees and those who have a problem with AOL do like to stretch the truth or speak in hyperbole quite a bit, and frankly it is getting old. real old.

    • Carll Tucker

      Hey Mel,

      Thanks for the mention. I’m not sure what mis-steps you’re referring to with Main Street Connect. Our 52 sites are doing gangbusters with audience and our revenues are growing inspiringly. Check us out at mainstreetconnect.us. Do you know something I don’t know?

      Carll Tucker, Editor and Publisher

      • Camelot

        “Do you know something I don’t know?”

        In the words of the The West Wing, the tonnage of what I know that you don’t could stun a team of oxen in its tracks, Carll. But to name a few:1. Your sites have the rare virtue of making Patch look like a well-oiled media machine — and I say this as a frequent critic of the big green menace.2. “Gangbusters” and “inspiringly” are hilariously equivocal terms with zero business significance.3. Most successful CEOs (editors, publishers, etc.) don’t spend their days policing comment threads on stories about the competition. I say most: John Mackey would be an obvious exception.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

          I second Camelot. Wow. What a complete utter d bag you are Carll. And who has a name Carll with two  LLs? Who does that?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

        And Carll Tucker, you are not telling the truth. I’ve never heard of mainstreetconnect and I read a lot of news. No offense, but your sites are just a poorly designed poor-man’s Patch and you’re not any better than Patch. And looking at your site, I see numerous missteps that don’t make you a serious player in the media world. Nice try. Instead of flashing your website, flash your revenue sheet. Numbers don’t lie.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

        I checked a good number of your sites and I don’t see 1 comment on any story and I don’t see any additional tweets beyond the one tweet from the author of the story. Quite frankly, you gotta have a lot of balls (balls isn’t the right word here) to post on a public message board that your sites are doing great when all one has to do is look to see the truth. Unbelievable. I am still looking at your sites trying to find one article that has any form of community interaction and so far I’ve hit a big fat 0-13. That’s Pathetic.

  • Barryg

    No matter what happens with Patch, AOL has definitely created a blueprint that I think others are going to try and follow as the hyperlocal concept continues to expand. Patch is not perfect, but they have done some great things and made some big strides, especially in communities that were receiving poor coverage from the existing media outlets.

    • http://twitter.com/benilfeld Ben Ilfeld

      Actually, you have hit on the problem here – Patch’s seeming failure so far hurts the entire industry at the moment because nobody wants to lose so much money on this kind of venture in the short run.

      There was a point last year when Patch’s growth had both investors and companies eager to jump into the industry – but that moment has likely passed as the size of the burn rate leaked.

  • http://twitter.com/Blue_Beacon Blue Beacon

    That’s a good point, the one about covering towns that previously were missed. Patch will obviously need to make sure the “coverage” is scalable yet reflective of the tone in those small Burroughs and townships.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=546472992 Rick Blair

    Patience is the ability to wait and calmly preserve. We all grow
    impatient, but some people have more trouble waiting than others do. We
    tend to forget that all good things take time.” – John Wooden

    • Anonymous

      YES.

    • http://twitter.com/welocally WeLocally

      Its easier to remain calm when your bank account is not hemorrhaging cash.  By any standards burn vs. revenue will have to change for this venture. The street will punish warner for this at some point if they dont figure it out.

  • Craig875

    As for Business Insider, which is cited here, some of their criticisms of Patch are downright comical. I would love to know the root of their hatred when it comes to Patch. At one point they actually said the public doesn’t need Patch since we already have Facebook serving the same function. What!?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JSUNTE67TUHS36QAOVMR4LC5HA Pink

      I agree Craig. But Patch does have some real problems.

    • Social Media Maven

      Please explain what is comical about criticizing a company for losing $130mm/year and dragging down the share value of an entire Enterprise? Unless you think that information is incorrect?

  • Guest

    Why exactly is Street Fight giving Mr. Webster space to air his corporate message? Could it be because Street Fight sees Patch as a very important part of the its Street Fight Summit, and this website wants to keep Webster happy in the run-up to that event?

    • Anonymous

      Come on, not everything is a conspiracy. How could you possibly say you cover the hyperlocal industry and not ask for comments from Patch?

      I give Rick Robinson credit for going directly to the top and not just pulling Patch pressers and ripping them for an easy blog post. He didn’t exactly grill Webster, but he didn’t lob softballs either. Webster is now on the record on a number of points, any of which could come back to bite him in the behind.

      Plus, Webster’s comments provide fertile ground for other journalists to follow.

  • http://twitter.com/basilpuglisi Basil C. Puglisi

    It’s unfortunate that the replacements in sales were yet another wrong move forPatch. Patch features one of the most unsuccessful advertising products  in the local market place.  As a former employee and a consultant that had several clients using Patch advertising in 4 markets in three states, I have the data that makes a compelling case that in my opinion, Patch advertising is a failure.

    It doesn’t end there, Patch, while a great fundamental concept, lacks the leadership to understand the digital and small business landscape. No greater example could be given then the lack of brand consistency across social media and the common first impression the public gets often expressing that they are visiting a landscape company be it via website, business cards or name.

    I will defend Patch at the grassroots community level.   There are some extremely talented and committed writers and local editors that are putting their heart and souls into their sites. However, having sat through the social media training first hand, they are being lead by amateurs who have no understanding of social or digital media. Even worse, there seems to be little if any understanding of brand development. This is made, all the worse, when the company restricts marketing dollars, community engagement and arms them with inferior products.

    Patch can toss out a press shot of their staff at a fundraiser, or site a few cases where advertisers have seen success, but at over 800 Patches and what should be thousands of advertisers you better be able to show a at minimum a few that got lucky.
    It’s not all bad, I did witness some amazing potential in employees. The type of employees  that didn’t just see issues and concerns, but brought solutions that were well thought out and cost effective to execute, while employees like this exist in Patch, there is hope that the organization may realize its potential.

    Historically from LinkedIn you can find out I was an Ad Manager, but what it doesn’t show is my work with a former AOL VP for Business Development, or the Social Media reports I prepared to help fix the brand issues Patch faced early on, things as simple as eggs on Twitter accounts, to more complicated things like  securing the @PatchSales twitter account from another user and creating the Patch Sales Facebook Page. Perhaps the warning I gave to the Social Media team about using a fake profile on Facebook called “Chris Patcher” to create the facebook pages should have been a clear example that the Marketing team at Patch is well beyond their comfort zone, let alone skills set for success in digital media.

    It does leave me with one question though…

    If these traditional media employees and leaders could not cut it in a dying industry of news print, what on earth made them think they would make it in digital media?

  • Social Media Maven

    It is interesting: Patch has a nemesis in Business Insider
    and a champion in Street Fight. The commentary from Basil is disturbing on many
    levels. Also the leaks regarding Patch seem to be coming from further up the
    food-chain these days.

     

    Some structural issues:

     

    Local Editor $40k/year x 1,000 Patches = $40,000,000

    Local Sales Manager $75,000/year x 250 Patches (Each one
    Covers 4 Patches) = $18,750,000

     

    $40mm + $18.75mm = $58.75mm.

     

    Leaked info suggests free-lance budgets were 1k/month/Patch.
    $12mm annually

     

    My question is how in the world does spend the other
    $99.25mm dollars? It is an absurd number. The sad truth is a vast majority of
    it has to be upper management and flat out waste.

     

    If they are truly turning out $30mm/year in revenue then
    there would be hope. They would have to get the number down to a $90mm annual
    spend and 2012 revs up to a conservative $45mm to build a platform that could
    move towards the break even point.

     

    However, if rumors are true and they are slashing freelance
    budgets, it shows that upper management is going to continue to cannibalize the
    company (To the tune of about $99.25mm) and not make proper or meaningful
    corrections until T.A. is forced out and Patch is nothing but a punch-line on
    Business Insider.

     

    If I could make a humble suggestion it would be this.
    Terminate anyone who was associated with the miserable failure (known as
    outside.in). Eliminate their positions. I just saved you a couple million
    dollars.

  • Brkava

    The nay saying reminds me of a former publisher at the San Jose Mercury News who made fun of an employee leaving to do marketing at a company he called “goo-goo,” back when Google had only a few employees.  I agree they need to do more brand marketing, but as far as content, many communities are embracing Patch warmly as an alternative to warmed-over print news.

  • Perry Gaskill

    It might be pointed out as a matter of perspective that Patch’s Aol parent is currently in something of a race against time. Dialups, which have always been Aol’s cash cow, have been dropping by somewhere around 25 percent per year, and unless Aol turns the revenue decline around, it may eventually cease to exist.

    So it seems curious when the Patch coverage Business Insider has been doing is interpreted as some sort of personal vendetta; BI’s readership is primarily targeted at investors, and there are some valid reasons for concern.

    My personal opinion, and I could be wrong, is that Aol made a decision very early in the game to move into communities where it may not have been a good fit. In the Southern California market, for example, Patch went into Beverly Hills and not Bell, Century City and not Compton. The choices probably seemed logical; follow the money. But it can be argued, at the risk of veering off into some sort of subjective social-psychological mumbo-jumbo, that those kinds of communities which have already gone through a process of gentrification are also those least likely to welcome an element for a national franchise.

    It also seems evident that Patch content tends to hew towards a form of happy-talk journalism where the needs of advertisers can subsume the needs of readers. And the problem with that is this: if you spend all of your time trying not to offend anyone, you wind up not being interesting to anyone either. Sometimes, when warranted, you need to be willing to pick a fight.

  • http://twitter.com/welocally WeLocally

    Another great piece of reporting from SFM and Rick, thanks for keeping people in this business informed.

    • http://twitter.com/Loclly sonicrick®

      thank you. wish i had time to focus more. and thanks as always goes the street fight editors.

  • http://www.arjunram.com arjunram

    Good interview Rick. Respectful but firm and addressed most issues. Would have expected you to ask about mobile.

    • http://twitter.com/Loclly sonicrick®

      thank you. yeah, i did not get several things in — including internal thoughts on arianna huffington’s hand in patch — was not substantiated enough to publish… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomeditor Tom Grubisich

    Patch’s advertising may indeed be a failure, as former Patcher Basil Puglisi insists.  But no hyperlocal has developed a proven revenue model.  Pure-play hyperlocals — both single-site “indies” and networks like like Patch — are steadily developing momentum that will make them the dominant source of online local news ahead of legacy newspaper sites — as data from the new Pew-Knight report on “Where People Get Their Local News” points out — http://pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2011/Pew%20Knight%20Local%20News%20Report%20FINAL.pdf  Pure plays that achieve credible traffic and engagement will attract advertising that will make them the hot Web platforms they’ve long been envisioned to become.  Patch has problems to work out — most of them created by its incredibly rapid buildout — but it is well positioned to get a sizable share of the revenue — local, regional and nation — that will inevitably flow to pure plays. To doubters, I ask, Who, based on performance, is better positioned?

  • http://www.about.me/f_wenz f_wenz

    Thanks for the engaged discussion here, which interestingly is far ahead in terms of involvement on many hyperlocal sites I have seen in the past years. Any one who wants to venture into this sector can learn a lot from you folks.

    I’d like to add some European perspective. We run a hyperlocal site in Berlin-Spandau http://www.mein-spandau.info We are also directory publisher in this borough of Berlin, so we do have some SME-customers in this area. 

    However, getting attention from locals and collecting local advertising money is a marathon, rather than a sprint. We calculate at least 2 years to see light at the end of the commercial tunnel. This is an experience which is confirmed by some German colleagues I  know. Fortunately we do not have corporate forces or investors chasing us down the road every quarter. So we can continue adjusting our editorial and sales model in order to succed in this area. As of of today I’d say: yes we can ,-) 

    • http://twitter.com/Loclly sonicrick®

      thanks for reading and good luck with your efforts. this comment, in my opinion, sums up how many of my moderate product successes got to be moderate successes: 

      “So we can continue adjusting our editorial and sales model in order to succeed in this area.”

  • Dionne N. Walker

    I’m just a journalist here, but IMHO the problem with Patch=
    -Poor business plan
    -Shaky company
    -Inconsistent quality
    -Minimal brand recognition

    Maybe it can work – but with such vast expansion, can AOL maintain while it works out the kinks? Unclear. Most folks in the biz concur that Patchers need not plan on retiring from there…

  • Expatcher

    In some ways, reading the comment threads attached to stories about Patch are a bit like reading threads attached to political stories. Lots of people on both extremes of the issue arguing the other side is an idiot. I’m a former Patch editor, and had close to twenty years experience as a journalist. The last decade or so primarily for online outlets. I started out in local print journalism and was excited by the possibilities of the job.  The non-stop directives from national insisting we write mom-centric stories or police blotter recaps was annoying, but tolerable. What was harder to take was the interference from mid-level execs (say, at the Regional level), who primarily had print backgrounds. They tended to have this dual obsession with approaching stories as if we were a small town newspaper while constantly worrying that readers wouldn’t trust an online-only product.

    Patch has a number of good editors, but they have also lost a number of them in the last year. The smartest thing the company could do would be to have someone from the national level track them all down and ask them about their experiences and why they left.

    • former patcher

      I’m another ex-patcher and would love to hear why others have jumped the big green ship. However, the rate of turnover seems to be a closely guarded secret. It’s even difficult for those of us who worked for Patch to quantify, given the decentralized organization.

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