AOL's hyperlocal news site readies N.H. rollout
Patch is AOL's attempt to corner the hyperlocal news market on a national scale
In an attempt to gain a foothold in key primary states, AOL's Patch.com is set to expand its network of hyperlocal news sites to 10 communities in New Hampshire.
In addition to the Granite State, Patch also is being rolled out in communities in Iowa and South Carolina, which will position it "squarely on the front lines of the presidential campaign," according to Arianna Huffington, president of AOL Huffington Post Media Group.
Huffington said Patch "will be able to deliver a real-time snapshot of how pivotal communities are reacting to candidates."
Patch is AOL's attempt to corner the hyperlocal news market on a national scale. Launched by AOL in February 2009, Patch operates websites in more than 800 communities in 18 states and Washington, D.C. It reportedly has plans to expand to 1,000 communities by the end of the year.
In New England, Patch already operates nearly 150 sites in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Its website says Patch is just weeks away from launching in 10 New Hampshire communities: Amherst, Bedford, Concord, Exeter, Hampton-North Hampton, Merrimack, Nashua, Portsmouth, Salem and Windham. Patch sites tend to launch in more affluent communities with populations between 15,000 and 50,000.
Each of the aforementioned communities is already covered by at least one existing news outlet: Amherst is covered by The Cabinet, Amherst Citizen and Amherst Advocate; Bedford, the Bedford Bulletin and Bedford Journal; Concord, the Concord Monitor; Exeter, the Exeter News-Letter; Hampton, the Hampton Union; Merrimack, the Merrimack Journal; Nashua, the Nashua Telegraph; Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Herald; Salem, the Eagle-Tribune; and Windham by the Pelham-Windham News.
Patch sites, which are supported by local advertising, cover community-specific news, from town hall meetings to home sales to Little League games.
Each local Patch is run by a journalist -- called a "local editor" -- who is given a freelance budget but produces the large majority of the content on his or her Patch. A regional editor oversees and manages the operations of several Patch sites within a region.
According to AOL's career website, Patch is still hiring local editors in Windham, Amherst and Nashua.
Once an Internet powerhouse -- in its heyday, it had 34 million subscribers -- AOL has struggled to remain relevant with the decade-long decline in its dial-up service. In a move to expand editorial operations, the company purchased The Huffington Post for $315 million in February.
AOL has taken a big risk on Patch, reportedly spending $70 million to expand the network in 2010, with plans to spend another $160 million in 2011.
In its short life, Patch has won both praise and criticism. In an era when many newspapers are laying off writers and cutting back resources, Patch announced in 2010 that it was "the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the U.S. this year."
However, the site also has been hit with claims of plagiarism, overworking its editors, not moving into lower-income communities, coverage gaps and trying to build a large network of unpaid bloggers to generate content for its sites.