In 2005, when Pew reported less than 20% of Americans had read a blog, I had the idea to leverage the new social technologies, like blogs, to build a community news and information site.
When Patch rolled out I was pretty confident it would eventually fail. AOL pumped lots of money into it, but as a publicly held company it would have to produce financial results and during the most recent quarterly earnings call and reporting around it, shows the time has come to shutter many of the sites (Patch’s New Math from Paid Content).
I wrote about Patch’s ability to both provide local news and tap local dollars in this post.
When Patch made a call for unpaid contributors, I knew they were in trouble and explained why in this post. Throughout my five year experience placeblogging, I had a total of three people interested in posting content as a contributor, and while some made it more than a year, most did not.
Two years ago I wrote about Patch following the declaration that they were serving over 50% of the population in the communities they were active. I noted my experience with local advertising and the challenges with the Patch approach.
And again, I explained how Patch’s readership numbers didn’t add up.
I made my last post on my community site on New Year’s Eve of 2011. At that time I read a post on our local Patch about its top stories of 2011 and what it told me was that Patch hadn’t found the pulse of the community yet, you can read why here.
In the Paid Content article noted above, the author misses the point, particularly in making a statement like this, “The fate of Patch is an admission that there is no business incentive to provide news to poor or rural communities. ”
The reality is that a national platform to deliver local news by extracting local dollars from small business using a combination of paid and free contributions from local residents won’t work.
The only reason the above statement was made is because in a community with high wealth, high-end global brands will advertise to reach that market.
This statement is equally flawed:
it’s a policy problem tied to the collapse of newspapers and the market for local news. Alas, the solution, despite recent local news initiatives by Google, seems even more remote than it did 10 years ago.
Newspapers may be hurting, but ours are heavily invested and engaged in online featuring a combination of print content online, breaking news, and blogs by staff and community members. One does a very good job of creating “community” sections on the site and linking to active local blogs.
Couple this with local information sharing that takes place on social and people have greater access to news and information by a wide margin than what they had 10 years ago.
The problem, it appears, is that AOL couldn’t monetize this, nor can anyone else.