This post picks up about where the post re. content mills left off. Though content production and manipulation is a fast-moving field in which I would not pretend to keep up I do like to drop in at times to see what’s happening and what’s about to happen in this community. For that reason I’ve been tracking insofar as possible the inexorable march of AOL’s Patch. As Patch marches from East to West and West to East I’m pretty sure the Twin Cities area, particularly the affluent suburbs, is on their pin map.
Librarian that I am in my DNA I’m done some research and will send readers to the primary sources. Still, there are some universal basics I can synthesize from a number of references. To wit:
- The current category under which Patch more or less fits is “hyperlocal”. The target is a community under 50,000. More specifically the prime target is a wealthy suburban community that has a lot of interest in knowing more about what’s happening in their hometown, i.e. the center of the known world. ( AOL hits the big cities with Going.com.)
- Patch is extraordinarily aggressive in its hiring, marketing, advertising, and promotion.
- AOL is pouring buckets of money into Patch ($50 million through the end of 2010).
- Much of that lucre goes to snatching up local journalists, including the employed and the unemployed, who work long hours multitasking, managing responsibilities traditionally the province of a large and diverse staff.
- Patch employees including local editors, salespeople, advertising directors and reporters work in the trenches, i.e. from home.
- Reporters view themselves as more – or other – than reporters, more as community organizers.
- Social media are used rather sparingly in Patch’s strategies.
- Feedback on hyperlocal initiatives and the advance of Patch is at a premium since neither revenue nor traffic data are provided.
- The battle between hyperlocal Patch and the foray of legacy media into local reporting is inevitable and proximate.
As far as I can see it’s the folks in media/journalism who are sharing their thoughts about Patch and other hyperlocal initiatives at this point. Many describe their local experiences and their expectations re. the future of Patch. Still, the impact of initiatives such as Patch reaches far beyond the work of a small cadre of energetic journalists in any one community. The time for a community to think about the implications is before the advance team comes to town.
Some links to others’ observations about hyperlocal media in general, Patch in particular:
Andria Krewson, AOL Patch and MainStreetConnect Expand Hyper-Local News, July 2010.
Sarah Studley, One Patch at a Time: How AOL Plans to Rescue Local News, March 2010