Patch editors get the call today they have been dreading
Local online news venture, now owned by Hale Global, starts laying off website editors
The COO of Patch, Leigh Lewis, had the unenviable task today of calling many Patch employees to let them know that their jobs had been eliminated by the new owner, Hale Global. The move comes exactly two weeks after AOL announced that it would be handing over its local online news venture to the turnaround company.
Patch websites looked at appear to have remained unchanged since the end of business yesterday, or in some cases, very early this morning. (The Cherry Hill Patch posted a traffic alert at around 9 ET.)
Patch has been a controversial initiative at AOL since its acquisition for $7 million in June 2009. AOL initially pored $50 million into growing out the network of local news sites, higher editors and sales people. The effort, however, was very poorly conceived as national advertising lagged behind the roll out, and local sales results were inconsistent. The plan, which relied heavily on the idea that “if you build it, they will come” proved a sore spot with investors, and pressure grew on AOL to show results.
But, to be fair, few media ventures produce profits within the first few years after launch – but, AOL, being a digital property, was not going to be given the same length of time that, say, a magazine launch would get. Because Patch was not launched with the same marketing support that many digital properties had in the golden days of the Internet in the late nineties, the local news product had to succeed with high costs, little promotion, and many critics waiting to see Patch fail.