Why AOL Patch and Daily Voice Have Failed in New Rochelle and Westchester

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — We can’t help but notice the struggles of our erstwhile competitors at Patch and the Daily Voice.

The City of New Rochelle, and the Westchester County region, benefits from more media coverage so it is with no great pleasure that we note how they have fallen hard times. With the benefit of a trained eye and experience, their failure was inevitable.

Talk of the Sound has been cranking along with no marketing budget, no traffic referral network, and no paid staff for five years. When we first came on the scene the only real competition was Gannett’s Journal News web site at LoHud.com. News12 has a web site but kept most of its content behind a paywall for customers of their parent Cablevision. There were a handful of weekly papers and a local radio station, WVOX.

In that time, Talk of the Sound has shown large and steady growth in all key readership metrics — unique visitors, page views and comment threads. In the coming days Talk of the Sound will break the 2 million unique visitor mark.

We have a model we think works.

We do a great deal of original reporting with an emphasis on how taxpayer money is spent including coverage of the local city council and school board. We do not worry about who we offend and always place the interests of our readers above the political class and the various vested interests in our hyper-local region.

We do our best to cover all major fires and police actions on a 24/7 basis and post obituaries, two of the three elements of the “holy trinity” of local reporting (the other being youth sports where we are admittedly weak and could use some help).

Most importantly we are focused on what we can cover best and readily link to our competition when they get their first or simply do a better job on a particular story.

Having already established Talk of the Sound by the time Patch and Daily Voice came on the scene, we have watched with great interest as they set up shop.

For Patch it was a rocky start when, during the first weekend they were live, we discovered they had plagiarized content from Talk of the Sound (and then lied about it for days). It has never really gotten much better for Patch which Mayor Noam Bramson had once touted as “our answer” to Talk of the Sound. Watching Patch operate has been like watching a fish hooked on a line, flopping about from one editorial posture to another, unable to settle on any one in particular.

Daily Voice has been more consistent, more like a traditional newspaper, but too deep in the pocket of one particular vested interest in New Rochelle, the administration of the school district. Other than they have down a decent job but with coverage that is often paper-thin.

Neither focused on what has traditionally been understood to be the real job of journalism — speaking truth to power. Instead they have engaged in speaking for power. Too often they have served up anodyne articles less concerned with informing their readers and more concerned with pleasing their subjects.

So how well has a editorial style somewhere between trade publication and Zagat’s guide worked?

Not to well.

Street Fight, a publication which covers the hyper-local news industry, is reporting that the Daily Voice nearly went bankrupt last weekend: Deep Cuts Brought Daily Voice Back From the Brink

Tom Grubisich reports:

Unable to convince investors to wait on profitability at the rapidly growing regional network of 52 news sites, CEO Zohar Yardeni resigned last Friday, along with his COO and marketing director. Faced with uneasy investors and a cash burn of $500,000 a month, the company’s founder Carll Tucker wondered: “Is this it?”…To cut costs immediately, Tucker closed Daily Voice’s 11 community sites in Central Massachusetts, reducing the size of the network to 41 sites — concentrating all of them in the affluent suburban counties of Westchester in New York and Fairfield in Connecticut…with our 432,000 unique visitors in New York and Connecticut per month…we have just a hair under 2 million page views per month.”

With 432,000 unique visitors on 41 sites, Daily Voice is averaging about 10,500 “uniques” per site per month. By comparison, over the past year Talk of the Sound has averaged over 60,000 “uniques” per month or more than 5 times the average per site traffic for Daily Voice.

On a positive front, Daily Voice appears to be embracing the Cluetrain ethos:

Good stories in competing publications will be aggregated with full credit. “I’m perfectly willing to curate a story from the Stamford Advocate [a competing publication owned by Gannett],” Tucker said.

In fact, Chaya Babu of the Daily New Rochelle linked to our story on principle resignations just yesterday and gave a h/t:

New Rochelle High School Principal Don Conetta’s resignation is effective June 30, 2013. The resignation was not unexpected and not thought to be related to a Justice Department investigation at the high school, Robert Cox of Talk of the Sound said.

Things have not been much better at AOL’s Patch which has been hemorrhaging money for years.

Business Insider recently reported that Patch is moving away from being an online

AOL’s Grand Human-Heavy Local News Experiment Is Coming To An End

Nicholas Carson reports:

[Patch] is pivoting away from a human editor centric model, toward one where local sites (“Patches”) are built to be content-sharing and community-organizing tools for their areas. Editors won’t go away entirely, but there will be fewer of them, writing for more sites.

Anthony Ha, a writer at TechCrunch, also owned by AOL, is reporting that Patch had 13.5 million unique visitors in January 2013 on about 850 sites.

With 13.5 million on 850 sites, Patch is averaging about 16,000 “uniques” per site per month. Again, by comparison, over the past year Talk of the Sound has averaged over 60,000 “uniques” per month or more than 4 times the average per site traffic for Patch.

Newsday, also owned by Cablevision, is a recent entry into the market but like its cousin at News12 is mostly paywall protected.

While exact figures are not available, there is no doubt that Talk of the Sound monthly traffic dwarfs Patch, Daily Voice and the New Rochelle-specific traffic for Newsday, News12.com, LoHud.com and other online news source combined.

For us, the reason is simple. We are more concerned with being a trusted guide for our readers than cozying up to politicians, executives in business, academia, healthcare or anywhere else. That may not get us invited to a lot of cocktail parties but will settle for a loyal, informed readership any day.

The mistake they made was worrying so much about pleasing and attracting advertisers that they forgot those advertisers would expect them to have readers who might actually view the ads.

Our approach has been to focus on being fast, first and giving the real story about what is going on behind the scenes at City Hall. We think readers appreciate that and have come to expect from us what is really going on with a particular issue.

With close to 2 million readers, who wants to argue with that?

YOU MIGHT ALSO BE INTERESTED TO READ: Hyperlocal cooties by the always interesting Jeff Jarvis.

2 thoughts on “Why AOL Patch and Daily Voice Have Failed in New Rochelle and Westchester”

  1. You’re just so smart Bob 🙂
    You’re just so much better than everyone else Bob. If nobody else is gonna give you credit, you might as well toot your own horn. Btw, there’s a man running around New Rochelle putting bombs in playgrounds. You’re falling asleep at the wheel cox. There are so many stories you’ve been missing while this thing is going on.

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