AOL, Patch and HuffPo
Journal-Register CEO John Paton on AOL, Patch and The Huffington Post
Much has been written (and Tweeted) over the past few weeks about the acquisition of the Huffington Post by AOL as part of their strategy to trade the 'dial-up' Internet business for the rather more progressive content business.
Part of that strategy is their other recent purchase of Patch, a string of hyper-local web sites that started in New Jersey and has now expanded to over 750 sites across the country, including right here in good ol' Lansdale (yes, no link, what, do you think I'm going to make it easy for you?).
Reaction to both has run the gamut, from predictions of doom to declarations of brilliance and lots of guessing in between.
Certainly AOL has their work cut out for them - the Internet is an increasingly crowded place with many players grabbing for a slice of the advertising pie. Patch is an attempt at tapping what AOL calls the 'underserved' local market, and the billions of dollars from local advertising that they say is just there for the taking.
I tend to think it has more to do with good old-fashioned demographics - I would hesitate to label the upscale suburbs of cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago as 'underserved'. Many of these communities already have local news sites, though perhaps not always as narrowly-focused as the Patch sites.
And despite a perception that newspapers are fading as new technologies leave them in the dust, the reality is that most local newspaper publishers now embrace the web and have growing readerships between the print and digital products. This has been a tough transition, and is far from over. But as the web matures, so will the 'legacy' news sites. Editors and reporters are learning new skills - everything from using video, social media and online tools to embracing readers as partners in the news-gathering process. Readers expect more, and will judge our progress with a click of their mouse - or swipe of a finger on whatever new mobile gadget comes out next.
Patch can join a long list of competitors that have challenged local newspapers and their revenue stream over the years - everything from radio and television to direct-mail and competing newspapers. But I wouldn't count the 'legacy' media out quite yet. These old dogs are learning some new tricks pretty fast.