Q: Why did Patch Fail? A: Quality


It takes people and resources to create quality journalism.

Patch wanted quality journalism with neither.

So it got what it paid for.

As a result, AOL is pulling the plug on Patch, the company’s grand experiment creating a network of local news hubs. It’s hard to believe that at one time Patch had about 900 sites and more than 1,400 employees. But they may have been the root of the problem.

Having so little people trying to create ALL the content and buy ALL the advertising for such a large enterprise proved to be next to impossible.

And as a result, the experiment is over. AOL announced this week that AOL will be dumping Patch and hopes to find a sucker buyer for the flagging network.

The root of Patch’s problem has always been quality. The sites were run by notoriously under-compensated and overworked editors, who were often responsible for multiple sites. This was not  recipe for success when going up against locally entrenched news operations – while admittedly suffering from their own cutbacks – but still better staffed, better funded and with an institutional knowledge of their respective communities.

The latter point – institutional knowledge – should not be minimized. Having a long history of covering a community and being able to contextualize and frame ongoing news is very underrated.

My own local Patch is a perfect case study for what’s wrong with Patch’s model. The editor is only five years out of college. He was a freelance writer before taking over as editor of my local Patch, but unfortunately he also the editor of the patch for a neighboring town as well.

So my editor is responsible for filling two Patch websites – every single day.

When big news broke in my town several weeks ago, it was the established media outlets like the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the TV news stations moving the needle. The Patch was doing mop up work and getting everything last. They weren’t even able to provide local angles.


Limited resources. Inexperienced staff. Overworked staff.

In the end that was the real Patch story.


New York Times Media Critic David Carr on the End of Patch

Goodbye, Patch: Good Idea, Bad Execution (via Gawker)

2 Responses to “Q: Why did Patch Fail? A: Quality”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned institutional knowledge. I think it’s a big piece of the puzzle when discussing hyper-local news sites. The reader is easily turned off when the “local” website drops the ball on common knowledge. You know: Not noting that a town meeting speaker is a former selectman or listing the address of a fire and not calling it the Odd Fellows Block. Without such details, the reader ends up rolling their eyes and not accepting the hyper-local label.

  2. Completely agree, Mike. So under appreciated nowadays. Reporters with deep knowledge of the history and culture of a community are so very valuable.

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