We used to write about Patch from time to time in the past when it looked like there might be something to all of the bluster that AOL’s CEO, Tim Armstrong, would generate around it. It looked like AOL had found the holy grail of the hyper local space (if you believed their hype that is) and the idea of true local reporting being both scalable and profitable was finally within reach.
Fast forward to the end of last week and the news reported by fellow AOL owned entity, TechCrunch, is not so good.
We reported yesterday that AOL’s hyper-local news service would lose hundreds of employees today, and now we have confirmation from a well-placed Patcher privy to the call that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong did indeed confirm to employees that hundreds would be laid off, with notifications of who will be let go coming throughout the coming week. (Disclosure: AOL owns TechCrunch).
In a call Armstrong held with the Patch team today, he explained that “AOL is going to be running the show” at the restructured Patch along with new CEO Bud Rosenthal. Rosenthal replaces outgoing CEO Steve Kalin, who was reported to be getting the boot earlier this week.
In addition 400 Patch sites will be closed or merged with other sites.
All in all it looks like the great Patch experiment (at one point, there was talk of a myriad of these sites sprouting up everywhere) is changing into, well, who knows?
That’s not to say that Patch is a complete failure. Some of the hyper local sites are doing well. It’s the love affair that businesses have with rapid growth that appears to have been the Achilles heel of the Patch effort.
Our source isn’t very convinced by the bluster around the new direction put forth by Armstrong. They suggest that this new strategy is really a “correction of a bad idea” that involved scaling far too fast without proper thought and planning, and notes that original Patch sites are still among the most successful. Focusing on those regions that actually do drive good revenue and traffic is probably the only way to save Patch at this point, however, so big cuts are probably unavoidable.
I wish that at some point the world would take a more realistic approach to business and how success is measured. More and more good ideas may see larger audiences if they were afforded the time to grow in a reasonable and rational manner. The world’s obsession with ‘scale’ has created more fantastic flops than it has anything else. In the wake of these ‘sure fire hits’ are lost jobs, disarray, discouragement and more ‘not so good’ stuff.
In the world of ‘go big or go home’ this will be more the norm moving forward. I don’t write that with any great sense of it getting any better either. So be careful who you attach yourself to. Most people only have so many flameouts in them.