“Patch is worthless,” wrote Dana Blackenhorn in Seeking Alpha. ”Close it. Think a company like Gannett (GCI) or The New York Times (NYT) or News Corp. (NWS) might want it? If you find a sucker like that, call me. I have a bridge to sell.” Music to our ears.
It may be too early to dance on Patch’s grave, but boy are we ready. We all know how expensive and hard it is to do hyperlocal — but, unlike Patch, we haven’t had $160 million pockets to dig into. We’ve had to do it with our own sweat. I don’t know what the hollow-cheeked Tim Armstrong was doing when Hurricane Irene hit the New York area in the wee hours of Sunday morning, but I can tell you what I was doing: getting the news out to my readers, without the benefit or electricity or cable. And when my iPhone hotspot no longer worked, my partner Liz George took over. Being late August, with multiple vacations going on, I ran the post-hurricane ship solo for several days. I didn’t have time to clear the slop out of my dead refrigerator until Wednesday night.
Of course those deep pockets were filled with money owned by investors, and they’re the ones have a revolt now. What Armstrong treated like free money actually wasn’t. If Patch is worthless, it’s because Tim Armstrong thought he could do local by applying massive scale. Local is local. By definition, It’s what’s close. It’s not about scale. Heed this, StreetFight. Local is what’s right around you. Neighbors are people you recognize. Grassroots grow from the bottom up, not the top down.
Hyperlocal isn’t worthless. Small-town newspapers have been functioning for years; people have always been interested in the news in their neighborhoods. What media like Baristanet and West Seattle Blog have done is chase small-town newspapers into the 21st century. We’ve taken the tools of new media and social media, and with nimbleness and creativity, shown how local news can be turned into a 24-hour-a-day conversation, complete with crowdsourcing and commentary. Local newspapers have smartened up. We showed them how.
If AOL bites the dust, and more importantly for us, if Patch does, it will be buried in the media graveyard somewhere near Back Fence.