Six years, $300+ million and 800 towns later, AOL has admitted it has no way of fixing Patch. It sold majority interest on Wednesday. Full story here. The gist of this story is that hyperlocal blogs aren’t scalable. It states that the only hyperlocal blogs that have been successful seem to be those that emerged organically, and frequently are driven by a single person.
I can vouch for that. Remember the heyday of Lakeland Local? This hyperlocal blog started by former Lakeland resident Chuck Welch was wildly popular for years, until Welch relocated out of state. After his departure, Lakeland Local never was the same. Chuck was the heart and soul of that site, which truly was a labor of love. In the early days of Lakeland Local, I was among a handful of writers operating hyperlocal blogs. Chuck helped me set up my first blog, Tales from the Delk Side, where at the time I thought it would be hilarious to chronicle my journey into laser hair removal and other nonsense. Yeah, I’m an over-sharer. What about it?
After months of us all doing our own thing, Chuck invited us to join him on Lakeland Local. In my opinion, it was a great move because we were a diverse group of writers with different political views and interests. Chuck vowed to never allow advertising on the site. I thought he was crazy for not cashing in on his blog’s success. But his refusal to do so was what made the content so good. We wrote for the fun of it. We wrote about things that fired us up and truly made us feel something.
Patch never could have accomplished that. It had no heart and soul behind it. No amount of money in the world could take the place of the raw passion that drives successful blogs. As a public relations professional, I’ve used Patch a few times to help spread the word about a client’s business. As badly as I’ve wanted that to be a good move, in the back of my mind, I’ve always known it was a bit desperate. A site that accepts almost anything is a site few people respect or want to visit. I suspect Patch became the site of last resort for many PR professionals who couldn’t get a mainstream media outlet to even run a brief on their client’s press release.
I would say it will be interesting to see what becomes of Patch, but honestly, I don’t think anyone cares. Rest in peace, Patch.