Patch is an independent U.S. local news and information platform, primarily owned by Hale Global. As of June 2019, Patch operated some 1,227 hyperlocal news and information websites in 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Patch Media Corporation is the operator of the service.
Type of site
|Area served||United States|
|Key people||Warren St. John, CEO and Executive Editor|
|Services||Online news and opinion|
|Alexa rank||114 (U.S.)|
Patch was founded by Tim Armstrong, Warren Webster and Jon Brod in 2007 after Armstrong said he found a dearth of online information on his hometown of Riverside, Connecticut. The company was acquired by AOL in 2009 shortly after Armstrong became AOL's CEO. Armstrong told AOL staffers that he recused himself from negotiations to acquire the company and did not directly profit from his seed investment. He instead asked that his seed money be returned to him in the form of AOL stock when it split from Time Warner.
The acquisition occurred on June 11, 2009. AOL paid an estimated $7 million in cash for the news platform as part of its effort to reinvent itself as a content provider beyond its legacy dial-up Internet business. AOL, which split from Time Warner in late 2009, announced in 2010 it would be investing $50 million or more into the startup of the Patch.com network. As part of the acquisition Brod became President of AOL Ventures, Local & Mapping, and Warren Webster became president of Patch.
On August 9, 2013, AOL announced it would be laying off staff at all levels. On an all-staff conference call, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong announced that the number of staffed Patch sites would be reduced from 900 to 600. Creative Director Abel Lenz was also publicly fired by Tim Armstrong at that time.
On January 15, 2014, AOL spun off Patch and sold majority ownership to Hale Global. With the sale's closure, AOL laid off several hundred more staffers before turning control of Patch over to Hale. In May 2014, the company announced the first profitable quarter in its history.
Since 2014, Patch has been led by CEO and Executive Editor Warren St. John, a prior reporter for The New York Times and contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Observer and Wired. In 2018, Patch completed is third profitable year in a row, attracting an average of 23.5 million unique visitors monthly. Patch employs nearly 150 people, including 110 full-time reporters, many from the nation's leading newsrooms.
The local news and information platform launched a new mobile app for both iOS and Android in November 2018, allowing users to subscribe to a personalized newsfeed from multiple cities and towns in the U.S. In its soft launch, the app was downloaded over 233,000 times and averaged a 4.5-star rating in the major app stores.
Patch covers news from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., but does not cover international news.
Patch sites contain news and human interest stories reported locally. Each site contains a mixture of local and national advertising. The latter includes a self-serve ad platform allowing users to communicate directly with targeted audiences. Patch's neighbor posts also allow visitors to contribute event news, columns and other community-oriented content.
Prior to its 2014 sale, Patch Media came under scrutiny from individuals and the media. Articles in the Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, Forbes and online bloggers pointed out apparent flaws in its previous business model. According to several sources that were published from 2010 to 2012, some of which quoted former employees, working conditions within the organization deteriorated and the company entered a period of consolidation. The sites also faced increased competition from independent blogs. Nonetheless, Tim Armstrong told the Columbia Journalism Review in March 2012 that he still believed in the company. When Editor-in-Chief Brian Farnham resigned in April 2012, Farnham said: "I've never worked for a company that has been as scrutinized, criticized, and coal-raked as this one ... You’d think we were creating toxic waste, instead of, you know, free useful information."
Following a period of consolidation, and just months after becoming majority owner of Patch in 2014, Hale Global reported the company's first profitable quarter. Patch continued its rebound between 2014-2016, recruiting reputable journalists and perfecting new, user-friendly features on its back end.
On Patch's resurgence, CEO and Executive Editor Warren St. John told Digiday in 2017, "I think Patch is playing and will continue to play an important role in hyperlocal journalism. We have a business model that's made it possible to continue to invest. I think we're on to something."
As of 2019, the hyperlocal news platform celebrated a number of milestones including three consecutive years of profitability and a continuing expansion of staff and reporting capabilities. According to MediaPost, Patch has found a few innovative ways to keep local news profitable, adopting the "playbook" of big tech platforms. The strategy involves allowing users to contribute to journalistic conversations and user-friendly advertising through a new set of tools across Patch's sites.
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