To Stop the Bleeding AOL Applies a Patch

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When I was at AOL, we had two areas that appealed to our members literally where they lived: Digital City (later CityGuide and now City’s Best) for local content features; and AOL Local which provided local based community forums. These areas really resonated with our members because as vast as AOL was in its hey-day, these relevant offerings touched them on a personal level.

Flash forward to the present, and those halcyon days are long gone. AOL is now a smaller player on the online scene with niche properties replacing the walled-garden portal. And, it is making a big splash in the formerly safe-haven for local media — hyper-local news — with Patch.

Patch sites have sprung up all over the U.S. and their success is taking its toll on local news orgs. It just launched its 500th site in Hopkins, Minnesota and despite Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham’s contention that, “We aren’t there to compete, but to just add another voice to serve the community,” Patch is causing local news media to make changes.

After the launch of Sonoma (Calif.) Patch, the local Sonoma Index-Tribune was forced to drop its three-month-old content paywall in order to compete.

Will Patch be AOL’s salvation? Combined with it’s niche sites (TMZ, Popeater, LemonDrop, et. al.) I think it just might. What do you think?

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

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