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Feb. 11, 2019, 10:21 a.m.
LINK: www.recode.net  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   February 11, 2019

A profile of hyperlocal news site Patch pops up once a year or so, and here’s the latest one, from Recode’s Peter Kafka. A few tidbits:

— Patch is profitable (and has been for a few years — the company also said it was profitable in early 2016 and in mid-2017).

— It now consists of 1,200 sites (up from around 900 three years ago) that pull in more than $20 million in ad revenue. While it started out focusing primarily on “more affluent” communities, Kafka notes that the range of places with Patch sites has grown:

Under [investment firm Hale Global], Patch launched a Joliet [Illinois] site and found success: [editor-in-chief Dennis Robaugh] says the site, staffed by a writer who grew up there, generates 2.5 million page views a month for its stories and has roughly a third of the town signed up for the site’s Facebook page

The Joliet site, for instance, has some extensive coverage of a police shooting, many posts by community members (on local events, job listings, etc.), and also tons of mugshots, with new ones posted every couple days. (“The following 10 people went to jail this weekend in Will County. Find out why”).

— Patch is doing some AI-driven reporting and looking at membership:

Like other news outlets, it is starting to use software to write some commodity stories, which is supposed to give human reporters more time to do more interesting stuff. It is encouraging readers to create their own posts and updates, and to get other readers to comment on them. It is planning syndication deals with other publishers who want to distribute their stuff on Patch sites. And while Hale is a big advocate of a free, ad-sponsored business model, Patch is playing around with a membership program for the sites’ biggest fans.

I poked around and found memberships on some existing Patch sites. In Dublin, California, for instance, “founding members” of Dublin Patch who pay $5 a month or $50 a year get:

— Promoted status on your local announcement and events posts in Dublin
— A member badge next to your Patch username
— An invitation to an ongoing dialogue with Patch executives on the future of local news
— The joy of belonging to a group of your neighbors who support community journalism in Dublin

They also get “14 credits every month, worth $1 each, that they can use when promoting posts” and an “ad-lite” version of Patch, in which they’ll see “only see ads we’ve sold directly to businesses with a local interest.”

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