Can AOL Reinvent Itself with Hyper-local News Via Patch?

AOL and Yahoo were among the handful of panelists at The Future of Media event held in conjunction with Internet Week NY. Both of these companies, along with every other company represented minus one (Google), claimed they are now in the content game, in some way, shape or form. Yahoo was once synonymous with search and AOL with the ability to get online. Back when AOL started, getting online, search, and content—well, they were pretty much all the same thing.

Having an AOL e-mail address is sort of the digital equivalent of wearing slacks with too many pleats.

Now, most people I know wouldn’t be caught dead with an AOL e-mail address. It’s sort of the digital equivalent of wearing slacks with too many pleats or a Member’s Only jacket. I guess they still have a dial-up and broadband service (my until still has their broadband and a friend of mind recently moved off of dial up).

But we all know AOL’s near death experience came because they didn’t move fast enough to reinvent themselves. I’m sure that every time Facebook thinks about moving more slowly (as a result of users’ resisting change), they are reminded of how AOL rested on their laurels and the ill-fated “glory” of acquiring Time Warner in 2000.

And how long did that last? Irony looms large as part of AOL’s reinvention is as a company specializing in content.

AOL sees an opportunity in hyper-local journalism and is addressing that with Patch. It looks like Patch is available in about 10 different states currently. There is nothing now in New York City but maybe that will come on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. A company called is “attempting this” in Manhattan with less-than-impressive results.

When looking at, I see no mentions of AOL whatsoever. It seems they are trying to distance their legacy brand (despite the smart new logo and reinvention) from Patch. I also read—in a comment on the NPR story—that there is also no mention of Patch on AOL’s site.

NPR did a story about AOL and their investment in Patch. How does it work? Via aol:

That’s the typical setup for Patch. It goes into a community with a population of 15,000 to 75,000 people, mostly upper-middle class. Then it hires one local editor, like Evans. The editor does most of the day-to-day reporting and writing, but also buys stories from freelancers. It’s sort of the online equivalent of the free community paper that in a lot of towns doesn’t exist anymore.

The article goes on to talk about a growing trend toward LOCAL:

Going local — or, in many cases, hyperlocal — is a growing trend on the Internet. Companies are looking to cash in on local advertising dollars and they are looking to position themselves for mobile advertising when that becomes more of a reality.

Read the full story on NPR or listen below:

I hope that AOL succeeds with Patch as I think that this sort of hyper-local journalism can help empower people and communities.

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  • Erik Karff

    I enjoyed the analogy to not one but three pleats!

    • jvasko

      Thanks. I couldn't resist that!