Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Patch slowly sinks into the sunset?

Patch sinks further into irrelevance today with the word that hundreds of people are being jettisoned.

Before the "hyperlocal can't survive" naysayers come out, I think Jeremy Littau says it well: "Problem wasn't hyperlocal; it was AOL."

Michelle Ferrier of Ohio University has been doing some depth research involving former Patch employees. She has a good post from yesterday. I look forward to seeing more of what she's discovered.

I also recommend you check out her wiki detailing the status of most sites under AOL before it sold.

My own experience from Hartsville Today, and the "cookbook" (PDF) we produced from it, taught me that there is an intricate recipe and balance to making these sites work - technology and design, deep understanding of the local community, constant promotion, the benefits of "seeding" the site with one or two good posters - but also making sure they don't become an excuse for others not to post, the commitment needed from the parent organization, if there is any ... etc.

But how is this different from the heyday of "print" and the establishment of community papers? It isn't -- and much of the digital age of journalism isn't really all that different when you drill to the basics. We talk about engagement, but that's what journalism used to be about before it got big and monopolistic (and it still is in those thousands of community media outlets).

Filing on constant deadline and across media? As I tell my students -- welcome to the wire service.

Sure, there are new things to learn, and we don't have the monolithic audience to which we can go take it or leave it. Good. But after two decades or so of mucking around in the digital swamp, I've found that the basics aren't all that different.

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