AOL Places Massive Local Bet on News Sites

SAI is reporting that AOL wants to create a massive network of local news sites and is recruiting writers to populate these sites. AOL wants to expand its Patch network from 30+ sites to “hundreds.”

Obviously this would mean lots of page views and a bona fide local ad network. The questions that arise, however, include:

  • Can they generate sufficient quality to achieve sustained readership and “brand” status?
  • What’s the ad model? It’s geotargeting for nationals and partnerships with local channels for SMBs
  • Will they pick the right partners and have the right content mix to create a compelling product?

A recent MediaWeek piece celebrates an existing version of this plan in Examiner.com:

Consider startup Examiner.com, led by former AOL Digital Cities exec Rick Blair. The company has tapped a staggering 29,000 writers, including former reporters, bloggers and passionate locals, in 240 U.S. cities. Blair says that Examiner.com now reaches 18 million unique users. But the majority of its writers are part-timers. “We tell people, ‘Don’t quit your day job,’” says Blair.

Most of the content flowing through Examiner.com (by my assessment) is crap content, however. It’s largely aimed at generating low-cost page views for ads — a variation on arbitrage. 

Yet if it’s all about page views and “shelf space” (SEO) for AOL and not about quality the effort will certainly fail.

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5 Responses to “AOL Places Massive Local Bet on News Sites”

  1. Check it out Says:

    Hi Greg,

    Patch.com has been live in many towns for a year now. Why don’t you stop by any of their 30 live sites and check it out for yourself?

    Better yet, ask the community how they like it. I am sure this will answer your open question. I am also sure someone from Patch would be happy to explain how they are different in the local space.

  2. proxiti Says:

    On this exemple in France you have the ProXiti Network : 6000 geo located websites.
    The first french hyperlocal news network.

    We are searching for VC’s or strong media partners who think this is the best way for win the SMB’s internet ads.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Jackson:

    Have been to the patch sites. Not critiquing them in their current state. Saying that Examiner.com is poor and that’s the danger with “massive expansion” if it’s not done thoughtfully and quality isn’t a central consideration.

  4. Craig Says:

    Why will Patch turn out any differently than Backfence?

    Historically, each hyperlocal sites is as good as their local moderator. Like with blogging, they start off with a big burst of enthusiasm then slow down — especially if you don’t pay them.

    What am I missing?

  5. Greg Sterling Says:

    Craig:

    Don’t disagree . . . hard to keep going over time. Quality is key and that’s what’s missing in my view here.

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