Hundreds Of Layoffs Expected For AOL's Patch Next Week

AOL's hyperlocal news product Patch is facing hundreds of "impacts," aka layoffs, next week.

For years, AOL has tried to turn its hyperlocal news product Patch into a must-read destination for towns and neighborhoods. But a combination of corporate mishandling and inability to actually go after on-the-ground readers, many of whom don't regularly read newspapers online, has stunted growth. Now things have finally come to a head: By all accounts, AOL is gearing up to lay off hundreds of Patch reporters and shutter scores of sites next week.

Poynter reports AOL CEO Tim Armstrong told Patch editors there would be no layoffs announced on Friday, August 9--as previously expected. Instead, AOL will formally announce the layoffs on a rolling basis next week; Armstrong referred to the layoffs as "impacts" to Patch employees. The "impacts" will effect 400 of Patch's 900 local sites; these sites will either be shuttered or handed over to as-of-yet-unnamed local partners.

That isn't the only bad news for Patch: AOL would not comment on rumors that Patch CEO Steve Kalin and content head Rachel Feddersen are leaving the company. Kalin has only been with Patch for two months at this point.

[Image: Wikimedia user Dan Petrikis]

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3 Comments

  • Anthony Reardon

    Well, this is because the business model is fundamentally flawed.

    Socio-geographic niching social media is a powerful idea, but you have to do a much better job. You have to be really innovative, because actually it's one of those low hanging fruit ideas that is commonly thought up and tried.

    First off, a little research should reveal that it has been tried before and often. That alone should give you a picture of how saturated the market is with failed hyperlocal projects, and that to succeed in that space would require an entirely different approach.

    I think there is a social desensitization to the idea of a nationalized hyperlocal network. Organizationally, the idea of listing tons of cities seems like it should be impressive, but in terms of target market audiences, most people only care about their own location. Not only does a national network fail to impress, but there's a natural resentment about big corporations thinking they can move in on providing what is best served from local sources in the first place. In other words, by definition it contradicts "local".

    It's clearly just a money grab. What I mean is that today's web user deserves and expects more sophistication. To suggest that you've got the best place for news, restaurants, shops,, etc, in one place as though that were a terrific benefit to people is an insult to intelligence. Clearly, what you are really saying is you intend to sell advertising and spots to said businesses. And those businesses, I can guarantee you they have all been solicited numerous times for this very kind of idea...and most probably have a well defined predisposition against the model already.

    Another very important challenge you have to contend with is that most all traditional media is geographic in nature. Whether it be print, radio, television, and so on, those are all embedded into local markets. Not to mention they are actually well established and reliably effective. In fact, if you really have a hyperlocal web project, probably the best way to get the word out is by partnering with the established local media advertising channels.

    Now I'm not sure if Patch/AOL tried that, but I have definitely seen a number of buy local or local directory type web projects advertised on my local media. It's still not enough though. I think one problem is there is still this belief that web is a superior cost-effective alternative to traditional media. Whether that keeps such projects from engaging local media, or just gets them to oversell the value of their web concept, it cannot be so much about the technology as it is actually about the community. I read, for instance, that Patch went through some kind of media management overhaul that was negatively received by the users they did have. Just another example how an organization is more concerned about the technology than the people using it.

    There's a lot more to it, but I will just leave with this idea of "news" being the ultimate selling point to engage local people. I just don't think so. Again, it's the first thing virtually any local online publication thinks of. If you think about it, local news is fairly well served by traditional media companies. In fact, some of the best local web integrations I have seen have emerged from print, radio, and television companies trying to get current in a hurry. So if you really want to present yourself as a local online destination of choice, you need to come up with something way more disruptive and inclusive than news. It doesn't even matter if you pay professional writers if they are just going to try to report local news. Allowing people in the community to participate in online discussions or blog their own content isn't good enough in itself either. In principle, I think you need to do things that are actually going to be newsworthy- the kinds of things that the local traditional news media would want to report on- the kinds of things that will actually make a difference in a community- to be somewhat of a driver for local movements that people in the community are going to get excited about being a part of. By extension, monetization shouldn't be flat advertising but actually helping local businesses to better engage their communities online and in person.

    Best,

    Anthony 

  • $11996062

    AOL PATCH was the means for POLITICIANS to use as a SMEAR CAMPAIGN.  PATCH WAS paid in heavy advertising to use a reckless reporter to destroy and defame the politicals opponent.  New Jersey was Notorious and one of the biggest contributors were the own of the Philadelphia Inquire, George E. Norcross who was known for twisting, lying and crushing the truth just to get even.  He probably has millions already invested.  Hopefully that will show up in the investigation.  He should have been RICO years ago after those tapes.