Warren St. John, who has led Hale Global’s Patch since its 2015 takeover from Aol., says the network has evolved into a workable model for scaled local news — editorially, financially and as a community asset. In this Q & A, he presents his case.
Mike Dinan founded NewCanaanite.com in suburban Connecticut in 2014 after his job as regional editor at Patch disappeared. In this interview, Dinan tells how, despite a crowded local media market, he’s made New Canaanite succeed as a community force and independent business.
Trying to scale community news has many pitfalls. Sites that go for scale can end up publishing glorified “bulletin boards” as they seek to spread budget-limited journalistic resources across multiple communities. The end result can be bottom-fishing remnant CPMs that can be as low as $1. Carll Tucker, CEO of six-year-old Daily Voice, which recently expanded into North Jersey, says its scaling model has produced average CPMs that “hover a few pennies under $8.”
“We have about just under 70 full-time salaried editors. Compared to the old Patch, which had a newsroom the size of the New York Times, that may sound small, but when I talk to other digital publishers and I tell them we’ve got 70 full-time salaried reporters in the field, that sounds like a lot to them. Our goal is to add more as we grow. As we get revenue, we put it immediately into expanding because we need to be national to really fully realize Patch’s potential,” said editor-in-chief Warren St. John.
Hyperlocal news organizations can be necessarily limited by their neighborhood focus, but Blockfeed thinks local news has the potential to be far more viable, because the essential components — content, an audience, and advertisers — have already been brought together by geography.