The Patch fiasco is generating tons of press, all bad for Tim Armstrong and well deserved in my mind. But what’s getting lost in the headlines about his horrible management blunder is what a disaster Patch is itself.
After spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this failed experiment, it’s time to throw in the towel Patch! Armstrong's heat-of-the-moment firing was clearly a precursor to more bad news – AOL just announced that they are cutting over 500 jobs.
The more important conversation though is what is the viability of hyper local news in general? Can it survive? Is it a sustainable model? Does the market even want it?
The answer is yes and no in my mind.
No, the Patch model just doesn’t work. The economics aren’t there. The cost structure they built isn’t sustainable as a viable business.
But, does the market want the product? Absolutely yes! When I ask anyone about their online news preferences, they all stress the importance of local news. That’s where their world is. Most people I know are getting news from many sources, including a national newspaper like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, and a hyper local source.
In my local market, one publication that really nails this concept is The Record. Sports, politics, crime, etc. – they have their pulse on the community and have experienced journalists that places like Patch just can't rival. In most markets, there is a similar equivalent. Some of the good ones include:
- The Daily Breeze
- Telegram & Gazette
- Intelligencer Journal
- Sarasota Herald-Tribune
- The News Tribune
- Atlantic City Press
- Chattanooga Times Free Press
- Naples Daily News
- Daytona Beach News-Journal
So while Patch seems like it won't survive, maybe, just maybe this is where the big national newspapers will finally find their footing. The recent news about The Washington Post and Boston Globe sales might just be the tipping point. It probably will take a few billionaires to buy these publications, strip them of their debt and inefficiencies, power up a viable digital solution and return to their roots – hyper local news!