Patch Media, AOL's local content and advertising platform, has just launched Patch.org, a charitable foundation that aims to cover hyper-local news in communities that are suffering from a dearth of media outlets, the ones the Internet rendered ... obsolete ... hey wait a minute!
Currently available in 41 communities spread over four states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, with another 15 sites opening in Connecticut starting at the end of the month—the service is so full of win for both sides that it's hard not to feel a warm glow inside.
Even Patch's About page has a home-spun feel to it, although there's no denying the quality of the hires—or the site's design. President Warren Webster has had high-level local news experience, and Editor-in-Chief Brian Farnham has come from Time Out New York—Details before that. While the two luminaries on the editorial board are Jeff Jarvis and Phil Meyer.
For AOL, the benefits are endless. As well as local news being a fount of money, it's a clever marketing exercise that will help the Internet giant to build brand loyalty alongside its user base, establishing AOL as the go-to Web and news portal for the towns' inhabitants. And, the fact that it's a charitable foundation means AOL can use it as a tax write-off.
For smaller communities who have lost their local news outlets, the individual Patch sites will offer dedicated areas to enable volunteers to hook up with each other and provide free advertising for charities and fund-raising events—there is a definite social media feel to the project. Furthermore, all profits from each community's site will be plowed back into the community. And, of course, it's creating jobs.