Patch Pitch: 855-Town Gorilla Doles Out Daily Deals

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Patch certainly reports the news, but it also seems that often Patch is the news. This is one of those weeks. And not simply because one of their interns recently helped assist an injured pedestrian, and Patch covered it.*

The hyperlocal news destination that AOL’s betting a bunch on (closing in on $200 million invested thus far) announced last week that it had crossed a milestone of one million articles published (bam!). It’s also rolling out a shiny new daily deals product in over 800 of its communities (pow!). Meanwhile, on the heels of poor earnings, AOL’s stock price goes into freefall in part blamed on weak ad sales (Patch included — thwat!). Never a dull moment.

No telling whether Patch Deals will skew toward pole dancing, like that other big daily deals site with connections to lots and lots of former AOL folks, including significant cross-investors. But from what I’ve seen they are fairly standard fare and simple to use. You know the drill: see the deal (in the Patch newsletter in this case), pay roughly 50% of the value with credit card or PayPal and voila: savings. Still, there’s a good deal of disagreement on the daily deals business in general, with some merchants arguing they are overwhelmed by the deal swingers (have we reached a tipping point?) and others saying their customers are quite happy, thankyouverymuch.

A few recent offerings from Patch Deals include the following:

Patch co-founder Jon Brod thinks there’s a clear differentiation. The President of AOL Ventures and Chief Operating Officer of The Huffington Post Media Group told Street Fight the unique selling proposition of Patch Deals is threefold:

– “The Hyperlocal nature of our deals ensures relevancy.”

– “Most major deals players are focused on major-metro areas and have not penetrated our markets.”

– “Since we are also a publisher with a large and loyal following, we have unique reach and an ongoing relationship with our customers beyond just deals.”

But where’s the innovation? OK, there is the Patch-American Express deal to allow use of the Serve card. I tend to think that rewarding existing customers and their loyalty, much like, could be a winning and innovative recipe as opposed to more of the same. But with Herculean efforts like this deals expansion, it’s one thing at at time.

The Hyperlocal nature of our deals ensures relevancy

The Deals actually started May 31 with six towns (including mine — I didn’t buy). A month later it was 185 towns and they are likely now holding back the hands of time trying to reach 800+ Patches this week. A Patch spokesperson told me the whole team is pretty swamped getting the deals to market. But that’s what happens when you live by numbers: growing localized nationwide deals or completing a million pieces of content in two and a half years.

Of that million-piece-march, Patch Editor in Chief Brian Farnham wrote recently:

“That adds up to over 382 million words. All that in just 30 months, and with over 600 of our sites having launched in the last eight months. (Another number we love? 391. That’s how many articles we’ve published about lost pets – and in many cases, we’ve heard that our stories helped reunite those pets with their owners. Woof.)”

And the millionth piece? Patch says it’s a story about donations to keep the “backpack lady” legacy alive.

Maybe Patch needs to combine strategies and aim for a million daily deals. Numbers like that might keep their own legacy alive.

* Thanks to an eagle eyed reader who pointed out the intern only “helped assist” rather my original assertion “saved”. Sorry about that.

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