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Patch.com Rep on Newspapers versus Local Internet News

By Clay Duda

On Wednesday Regional Patch Editor Michael Jacobs stopped by the Center for Sustainable Journalism to talk about the launch of more than 60 Patch.com news sites in the Atlanta area. Jacobs oversees 12 sites scheduled to launch by the end of the year in Cobb County and surrounding areas northwest of Atlanta. Over a three dozen Kennesaw students, alumni and young professionals attended the two information sessions.

On the top of Jacob’s agenda was the past, present, and future of news along with the structure of the AOL-backed initiative. Watch this short video as he talks about the hay-day of print journalism and where Patch fits in.

Patch is structured as a hyperlocal network of news sites. The idea is that newspapers have become disconnected with the community they serve. At the heart of each site is a directory of area events, businesses, and happenings. The focus on a concise area of coverage – usually in towns with a population of 10,000 to 50,000 – is hoped to allow the local editor and reporters to dig into stories that really matter to the readership.

“What we are trying to do with Patch is restore that community feel of the newspaper – get that engagement back with the readers – and frankly do a lot more than a newspaper could ever do because we have all the opportunities that the internet presents,” Jacobs said.

Aside from the local editor, a single Patch site has no full-time reporters. Instead, the editor is in charge of reporting some stories and recruiting freelancers to handle the rest. A given site will have a “staff” of roughly 6 – 12 regular freelancers, depending on the size of the community being covered, Jacobs said.

To learn more about the inner structure of Patch visit our Social Media Consultant Clay Duda’s blog, where he has broken down Jacobs’ insight into a journalist’s guide to Patch.

The big question about the future of journalism, and online ventures especially, is the sustainability of the business model. According to Jacobs, Patch has continually out sold their goals for ad sales. The key to their success, he says, is the limited number of ads on each page generating a higher visibility and reaching a concentrated target audience. Each Patch page consists of 2-3 advertisements, without any of the “forced ads” that have become prominent at the beginning of videos or between story jumps.

Patch isn’t the first to attempt the hyperlocal approach – bloggers have been doing it for years – but unlike most struggling start-ups Patch came with a $50 million investment by America Online. The money has provided an edge in attracting advertisers on both the community and national levels.

With the shifting tides of media consumption Patch is currently another experiment of the digital age. Other publications have taken similar approaches, although different angles, with their own experiments. NPR recently launched its Argo Project sites focused on specific issues in cities around the U.S. with a $3 million investment. TBD.com has a similar feel to the Patch network sites, but is limited to the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. Our own ventures of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and the Green Building Chronicle are niche sites focused on specific topics and regionally based in the Southeast.

3 Responses to “Patch.com Rep on Newspapers versus Local Internet News”

  1. A Journalist Guide to Jobs @ Patch.com | Clay Duda: journalism, photography, and urban living Says:

    [...] The AOL-backed hyperlocal journalist empire that is Patch.com already consists of more than 100 sites around the country. It is the fastest growing news organizations in the nation. Regional Editor Michael Jacobs paid a visit to the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University yesterday to address an eager crowd of students and young professionals. There is an in-depth analysis and video footage of the information session on the Public Journalism Network. [...]

  2. Katjusa Says:

    Thanks for the report & video, Clay! I was at the 12:30 Patch info session on Wednesday and posted a few thoughts about it on my blog: http://katjusa.com/2010/09/17/the-5-failures-of-newspapers-and-a-patch-of-hope/

  3. debra saunders Says:

    “When a newspaper dies, you don’t get a comprehensive periodical to fill the void. You get an informational vacant lot into which passers-by can throw their junk.”

    Debra J. Saunders
    columnist, San Francisco Chronicle

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