AOL/Patch is coming to New Rochelle.
Patch.com, recently acquired by AOL, is preparing to launch a New Rochelle web site and is currently soliciting prospective advertisers and recruiting freelance writers. Full-disclosure, my daughter works at AOL and I know several of the people involved with Patch.com
Patch bills itself as a “community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities”. They are run out of Manhattan and they hire freelancers to write stories for various towns and then cross-post those stories.
Patch has web sites in nearby towns including http://larchmont.patch.com and http://www.rye.patch.com.
They have an ad up on Craiglist. They are currently looking to hire “freelance reporters/multimedia storytellers with strong news judgment”. They want people to cover breaking news; courts and crime; politics and government; business and development; features; the arts; schools; sports and more. They are paying people $50 to $200 or more to “deadline-driven reporters that are adept at online storytelling”. That is pretty good money considering the nature of the stories I see on their web site which are primarily reviews of local stores and restaurants (i.e., advertisers) and rip n’ read versions of press releases and stories that other outlets have reported. In other words, little work beyond sitting at a desk, surfing the web, making a phone call or two and banging away on a keyboard.
Specifically, they want a a freelance sports editor. a freelance weekly columnist to focus on New Rochelle issues and a freelance daily calendar editor.
Some readers and supporters of the site have asked whether AOL/Patch is a threat to Talk of the Sound. From looking at the stories on their other sites in the area I would say they are really more of a threat to the Journal News and, to a larger extent, the smaller weekly papers like the Sound and Town Report and the New Rochelle Review.
Talk of the Sound is more focused on breaking news, doing original reporting, providing an outlet for community voices and “telling truth to power”. I do not expect to see AOL writing articles about corruption at City Hall or at the Board of Education.
Given the nature of New Rochelle, I expect that the clique that runs New Rochelle will try to turn it into another “cheerleading” propaganda platform. Hopefully, the editors at Patch.com will not allow that to happen. In either case, more media coverage of New Rochelle is always good so I, for one welcome them. So much so that I applied for the position of writing a weekly column about New Rochelle for them.
Looking over their ABOUT US page I can see a few names I know and respect.
As their New Jersey Regional Editor they have Steve Johnson who I worked with when he was running online operations for AP. He and I created a partnership between my organization, the Media Bloggers Association, and the Associated Press to provide coverage of the “Scooter” Libby Trial for which I arranged the first-ever media credentials for bloggers to cover a federal trial.
Phil Meyer of their Advisory Board is a legend. Currently Professor Emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame in Journalism in the spring of 2008. Professor Meyer was kind of enough to invite me to address on his last journalism classes before he retired.
Of course, the omnipresent Jeff Jarvis is an advisor. Who does he not advise. Jeff is a founding member of my organization and currently director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism. A brilliant and provocative thinker on all things citizen media.
This effort is hardly a new thing. The trick has been finding ways to make it pay.
Backfence, a company started by Mark Potts of the Washington Post to do the same thing that Patch is doing, went out of business in 2007.
Examiner.com (full disclosure I write for them), is doing a different take on this sort of thing but is hiring lots of freelancers. They too have a ton of money behind them in the form of Phillip Anschutz, a billionaire who owns, among other things, Regal Cinemas.
Here is a good article on Patch and MainStreetConnect, a competitor, from PBS MediaShift.
Another company called GrowthSpur, has been working to support truly local sites like Talk of the Sound, The Loop in Larchmont/Mamaroneck and MyRye.com. They are sort of the anti-Patch. Ironically, Jeff Jarvis is also on their advisory board. GrowthSpur is run by Mark Potts who founded Backfence and then left before joining Examiner.com.
I understand that Patch got a ton of money from AOL to give it a go so they can, like the quasi-fictional Charles Foster Kane, can afford to keep losing a million dollars a year for the next 50 years.