When AOL bought hyperlocal news site in June, 2009, it covered five towns in Connecticut and New Jersey. On Tuesday, it will open its 100th Patch, and by the end of the year it plans to open 400 more for a total of 500.
…….. its main focus is covering local news and creating an in-depth directory of local businesses and places of interest. Each Patch covers a small town with a population between 15,000 and 75,000, places like Fairfield, Connecticut, Mill Valley, California, Scarsdale, New York, and Morristown, New Jersey (which will be the 100th Patch).
So what’s the big deal you ask? It’s about local and the continuing emphasis on the fact that people’s lives happen on a local level more than it does on an Internet level. No matter how long you spend online and ‘talk’ with your ‘friends’ from around the world you have to go outside to go to a store that is, gulp, amongst the commoners of your town or city. Oh, so you only do delivery right to your door? Well, then you are likely to do a local search when looking for another option so even though you are ‘jet setting ‘round the world’ in your PJ’s you are still a local citizen whether you admit it or not.
This sudden realization that the world wide web is the most powerful local business tool seems to be some kind of epiphany to the masses. Of course, this is nothing new but the attention being given to local is. Maybe instead of the “Year of Mobile” we should be touting the “Year of Local”?
Local news is the front facing reason for Patch to interest people but the real power lies in its quest to challenge the likes of Yellow Pages providers and Google maps Place Pages with its growing database of local businesses. Of course, there are chances for that local business to advertise in Patch and then you have the magic ‘R’ word (revenue) which is why Patch, or anything else, exists on the Internet.
So far it has 105,000 local listings, and is building out more every day. Before Patch launches in a town, it creates a directory of the local businesses, parks, hospitals, schools, and other public places. It launches with about 1,200 for each town, which get entered into Patch’s structured database. Each place gets its own profile page on Patch, with a description and highly detailed data such as teacher/student ratios for schools or suggested dress code and parking options for restaurants.
Take a look at this listing for a restaurant in the high end town of Chappaqua, NY (home of the Clintons if you care about those things). It’s pretty impressive and a nice supplement / complement to a web page. maybe Google’s Place Pages should take note?
Now let’s not forget that this is an Aol. project so it has its trouble and its detractors. Among those most unhappy with the Patch system are the ‘journalists’ used for reporting news. Apparently, Patch isn’t the greatest paying gig but when was the local paper a place for big time writers to make a living anyway?
If Patch can get to 500 sites by the end of the year there needs to be quite a push so we will keep an eye out on just how this plays out. In the meantime, if you are a local business in a Patch town maybe its something you need to consider for your advertising rather than the, gulp, yellow pages.