The idea of working as an actual reporter for Patch has never really appealed to me even though I have a very basic understanding as to how to work as a journalist. This seems to confirm my decision to avoid this sort of thing:
Patch.com can blow you away with numbers. From about 50 outposts a year ago, the company now has 827 hyper-local websites spread across 20 states. Nearly 1,000 journalists post 5,000 articles a day. That's one every 12 seconds. In addition, Patch has added 2,000 bloggers, for a total stable of nearly 6,000. Traffic has been spiraling upward, from 3 million unique visitors in December to more than 9 million in May, according to research firm ComScore.It's going to have to be a case where people find invaluable news on Patch, and then stick with it. And then support it, financially, or otherwise. Climbing that hill is tough for any media outlet that has to start with almost no advantages.
One final statistic: After Patch headquarters in New York put out a call on Twitter (echoing my own) for feedback, it came trickling in. After 66 Patch editors asked readers to contact me (only a couple actually pleaded for cheerleading), a total of 40 readers responded. Most of them said they really like their hometown Patch.
This seemed to confirm, along with weeks of poking around several of the websites, a certain profile of Patch.com sites: very much a work in progress, still unknown in many homes. They bristle with calendar items, photo galleries, sunny profiles of "whiz kids" and upbeat stories of new-business openings, but offer only the very occasional deeper insight into the communities being covered.
This is what I mean:
Patch made its biggest splash in that regard last month, when a regional editor in New Jersey, Tom Troncone, spotted New Jersey Gov. and austerity proselytizer Chris Christie arriving for one of his son's high school baseball games. A state police helicopter delivered the governor — a revelation chased by a score of other media outlets.Now, what's the dealbreaker here? For me, it's the fact that Patch is under that "Huffington Post" umbrella. Nope, sorry, I will never, ever work for Arianna Huffington. To her credit, getting people to write things for free is what she does, and Patch is her ideal stomping grounds.
Patch HQ in New York can also point to other stories in which they have held officialdom's feet to the hot coals of public opinion: résumé padding by a City Council candidate in Hercules, Calif., wasteful air-conditioning spending at a Connecticut school, drunken-driving by a highly-paid school spokesman in Georgia, alleged personal use of food bank money in Beaumont, Calif., and exorbitant city employee salaries in one Rhode Island town.
These achievements take place, though, against a backdrop of some Patch journalists flailing to keep up with basic institutions. One editor in California told me he was so busy he couldn't complete all his other work and still cover the City Council and school board.
But you cannot deny the importance of getting that kind of a scoop. That speaks to the need for local reporters, but how can this business model work? I have no idea.