By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Catania says that rather than a top-down operation, Patch is more "collaborative." There's "lots of conversation, lots of feedback from local editors and regional editors." If a local editor "has a good idea they can try it out, and if it's cool everyone else can do it, too."
But instead of bringing journalistic eyes to spots that desperately need it, Patch isn't opening in Bell, Compton, South Gate, Vernon or Cudahy. It's taking the Real Housewives circuit: Beverly Hills, the West Valley and the Westside.
Patch Media's Webster concedes that the more attractive suburbs are the focus, where regional dailies have cut back coverage and left a business opportunity. But he promises that next year more Patches will launch in "underserved communities."
For now, one big requirement is that Patch local editors create a comprehensive directory of local businesses and public institutions before the site goes live.
Explains Webster, "We create the most comprehensive local directory" with "hubs of information for, say, the City Hall or a business." The goal is to create a single digital destination that provides extensive information about the town.
"They put up a Web page on every business in a community, many of which don't have Web pages. That's free," says Ron Kaye, former editor of the Daily News. "I think he's got the best game plan of anyone I know" because it aims at solving the key problem: "The whole challenge is generating revenue."
Webster calls Patch sites "news" outposts, not "blogs." But its concentration on creating directories leaves people wondering what the real plan is.
Rutt adds, "The endgame of Patch is to get money from local businesses and funnel it into New York, where headquarters is."
Cody has a different question: whether AOL will see a payoff at all. "I don't know much about national sales, but with Web rates as low as they are" — at $1 to $5 for each "impression," or set of eyes that view a site's ads — making a profit will be tough, he says.
"I cannot envision national advertising generating enough to support Patch," Cody says. "This doesn't even address the question of how they can responsibly cover schools, sports and local politics with one editorial person."
Webster says what really drives Patch is providing "excellent service to a community." He adds, "That's a good business strategy — as opposed to just trying to drive traffic ... off the bat."
But on a recent Tuesday morning in September, it's the Easy Reader that posts a couple of hard-hitting news stories, not Patch Manhattan Beach.