Three years ago I posted that local newspapers needed to change to continue to be relevant. Three years later not much has changed except that there are fewer local newspapers. I thought that AOL’s www.Patch.com might fill the void (Tim Armstrong CEO for more than four years of AOL probably hoped so too), but that has not happened as Patch has yet to reach or even come close to reaching a significant amount of Americans.
Why has Patch.com failed to gain acceptance? Mr. Armstrong has found great success with his stewardship of the Huffington Post after the departure of founder Arianna Huffington. Earlier this month an interesting article on Mr. Armstrong in BusinessInsider.com (I admit I like this snackable content site) noted recent developments regarding the future of Patch (i.e. more layoffs of as many as another 1,000 employees).
Patch.com has such great potential but the inherent problems in obtaining reliable reporting for little or no cost continue to hamper the site’s ability to gain traction. The platform has not figured out how to link with local reporters and newspaper editors without making them feel that their lunch is about to be eaten. By the time Patch.com and Mr. Armstrong figure this out it may be too late for both Patch.com and local newspapers.
I still enjoy reading about the local news in my city – and I am far from alone in that regard. What I don’t need is to have my local paper or Patch.com try to inform me as to what are the latest developments in Afghanistan or in Washington. What I want is stories of local interest – like what store might be going in where the deli that just moved to another location in town. Things like that affect me and my family directly, and only a truly local newspaper staff can report on things of that sort. Even if that newspaper is not actually a paper but a digital newspaper that can be accessed on a tablet, mobile device or computer – I still am interested in that unique to my location content.
AOL’s Patch.com has all the ingredients in place to create a successful recipe for local news distribution. How the high school volleyball team did last night, who won the spelling bee, how the weather is different in different parts of the city and how it compares to years past and the area in general. A digital newspaper platform should, if anything, have too much content since there is no cost for newsprint and distribution. That advertising on Patch.com is so overall weak that qualified reporters cannot be compensated enough to write for the platform is mind-boggling – and hugely disappointing.
Will Tim Armstrong be able to fix Patch.com? Is it even fixable?