Here's how PaidContent summarizes Auletta's view of Patch (New Yorker story is subscription only):
Patch, which Auletta puts at 700 outlets and has 750-plus now, is too much like “digital Yellow Pages” plus has tension between journalism and boosterism—and probably costs too much to last at an estimated $30 million a quarter.The hectic effort to get Patch to the 750 number before the close of 2010 certainly had an effect on quality - something the managers of Patch admitted internally. Whether AOL has a strategy to turn this around, now that it has numbers, remains the central question. Auletta doesn't think it will. Again, from PaidContent:
AOL gets points for hiring hundreds of journalists for Patch and hiring some talented journalists overall, but loses some for failing to hire an editor in chief. It also loses some for losing reporters. AOL refugee Jeff Bercovici told Auletta one reason he switched to Forbes.com was to get his calls returned but also cited the pressure to reverse a downward trend. And this was written when FanHouse was an AOL brand; late last week Armstrong announced plans to outsource most of sports, health and real estate. Auletta’s take: AOL does not seem to be saving journalism, and journalism does yet seem to be saving AOL.” He carefully leaves the door ajar for that possibility but clearly doesn’t expect it.The New York Times had a story yesterday that gives us a glimpse of the Patch metrics (found via LA Observed):
Traffic on individual sites is low; former editors say that the average post attracts just 100 views and that they considered 500 page views a wild success. But the overall traffic is growing quickly.
In December, Patch had just over three million unique visitors, 80 times that of a year earlier, according to comScore.
Yet over the years, a number of so-called hyperlocal news sites have failed, and the idea is largely unproved financially.