By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

AOL would be profitable without Patch

Talk about burying the lede. The New York Times today reports on the latest regarding AOL’s long, slow slide into oblivion. Near the end is this:

Other ideas include closing Patch, AOL’s local news initiative that has reporters in 850 towns. Eliminating the money-losing service would free $160 million and lift AOL into profitability.

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong insists he’s not going to abandon his strategy of transforming the service into a profitable content-provider. But the Huffington Post side of things brings in so many more visitors, with fewer employees, that you really have to wonder how long he and his shareholders can resist the urge to close Patch.

Not to repeat myself (OK, to repeat myself), but I don’t wish Patch ill. Given that it is hiring young and some not-so-young journalists, I’d like to see it find a profitable place in the local-news media ecosystem. But it’s never been clear how Patch can make money. Business Insider has been especially withering, but its negative outlook is hardly unique.

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  1. This would be very unfortunate.
    The Patch concept is a good one journalistically, but they are missing the boat on sales.
    The only good media buy with Patch is in the email notification, but it doesn’t look like they offer that.
    Not enough people actually visit the website to justify the cost of an ad, but the email reaches everyone everyday – and that could be a good buy as the list grows.
    The “5 Things You Should Know” feature that appears at the top of each day’s email is a cute idea, but a bad one. They should have news headlines and obit listings at the top. That’s what people want.
    And they should put more of their message in text, not html. Html messaging means you can’t read it without changing the default settings in your email.
    As for the concept itself, one editor should be able to handle one town’s major news. Newspapers have been doing this for years.
    Patch should forget about the soft stuff (other than listings) and just focus on the real news.

  2. Mike Stucka

    How is each Patch site losing on average $188,000?

    Seriously. As I understood the model a couple years ago, local editors even did their own human resources. They can’t be paying stringers that much. There’s got to be some revenue coming in. How much back-office overhead is there?

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