May 092011

I’m sorry to announce the death of the San Leandro Patch.  No, you don’t need to rush and click on the link to see if it’s disappeared.  It’s still there.  My guess is it will still be there for a few more months.  Can’t tell you how many, August would not be an unrealistic date for its final demise, but it’ll surely be gone (at least for all intents and purposes) by the end of the year.  My guess is Jill Replogle, the local editor, is already looking for a new job.  Journalism jobs are very hard to find, specially in this economy, but at least three of her Patch editor colleagues from this immediate area have already jumped ship and found work elsewhere.   She’ll find something. She doesn’t have a choice.

I’m sad.  The Patch was (is) great while it lasted: it provided us with a forum where to bitch about what’s wrong in San Leandro, meet new friends and discuss ever more esoteric topics.  My knowledge of Catholic sexual doctrine and the value of various educational degrees has improved dramatically since I googled these topics for Patch discussions.  Yeah, the Patch never was what it promised it’d be: “hyper-local journalism”, but it was something.  Hopefully, something good (perhaps a site like Berkeleyside) will arise from its ashes.  It’ll be up to us.

We knew that the Patch was a failed concept even before it came to town.  The Business Insider did the math, it’s just impossible for a site like Patch to support itself on advertisement alone, even if it actually managed to sell advertisement.   AOL was never very clear on how it planned to monetized the Patch.  Some thought local merchants would be willing to pay premium rates, but it’s not realistic that the Patch would  attract the same quantity of readers that a local rag like the San Leandro Times enjoys.  So far the Patch has only convinced two local merchants (one, part of a chain which I suspect may have a nationwide advertisement agreement) to advertise on the San Leandro Patch.   Ideas like  “groupon“-type coupons were considered, but they haven’t materialized so I imagine there hasn’t been enough local interest either.  Without the readership, they’re hard sells.  At least one writer believes that the Patch’s value is on its business directory, a virtual yellow pages online.  But the directory is badly designed and not user-friendly.  Few local merchants and customers have added their takes on the businesses.

Perhaps, if pursued with enough intensity, some of these “local revenue” ideas would have worked out – but sometime around the end of last year AOL lost faith.  It decided to go in a new direction and buy the Huffington Post.  It paid $315 Million for a site that boasted almost 28 million monthly unique visitors and that had just become profitable.  As part of the deal, Ariana Huffington was put in charge of AOL’s media business, including the Patch.

AOL has been heavily bleeding money on its media investments.  Patch, in particular, has been expensive.  From January 2010 to April 2011, AOL  lost $115 Million on the Patch, and the figure may rise to $175 Million by the end of the year.  Revenue has been too small to make a dent.   AOL and Huffington are getting impatient and they’re  trying to cut the bleeding.  By far, their greatest costs are the salaries of their journalists.  Each Patch’s started with one editor and a number of freelancers who together produced about three local stories a day.  Not great quality stories, but stories.  But at $50-$150 a pop those stories were too expensive.  Around the time the Huffington Post was acquired, AOL started cutting freelance budgets.  While Huffington later announced that Patch would be hiring as many as 800 extra  journalists – about one per Patch -, most of those jobs never materialized.

Instead AOL decided to go in a completely different direction: recruit local bloggers to provide free content, aggregate stories from other sites, and publish stories across multiple Patches.  The hyperlocal angle is going away.  While the San Leandro Patch used to publish about 3 local stories a day, now it’s down to one – and not a particularly good one.  Today’s was on a 4th grade student receiving an award.    Of the other 8 stories on the home page (published in the last 3 days or so), 7 were posted to multiple Patches.  None of the aggregated news concern San Leandro.  The next step, I think, will be to consolidate nearby Patches.  They’ll probably start with smaller communities – but eventually I daresay the San Leandro Patch and the San Lorenzo Patch will share an editor.

AOL seems to have given up on the local-reader/local-revenue model.  Instead, it’s going after anyone’s eyeballs, putting quantity of material ahead of quality.  This model may eventually work for them, but it won’t work for those of us who were looking for a place online where to meet other San Leandrans and talk about issues of common concern.  If we want that it appears we’ll have to create it ourselves.

  11 Responses to “San Leandro Patch: RIP”

  1. Its hard to get people into local issues and politics. For one we don’t have a system that protects people when they become politically active , unless they have Just Cause at work , which only union members have in this country.Second the political parties only come around at election time and put next to nothing into building local organizations or what is called “candidate centered politics.” Third the main stream media uses slogans like “complete local coverage” but can’t logistically cover but a minute portion of local issues and news since their viewer range is 50 or more cities and towns in most metro areas. Fourth, I read this a few weeks ago, people are hesitant to engage in local issue because there are weak political “cues” like Democrat or Republican, liberal/conservative in most local non partisan elections and issue coverage.Fifth, people who were attracted to national issues flocked to the Huffington Post ,some political scientists call them “cosmopolitans while the local people are called “localists” and they are usually tied in the the status quo and have their own local media habits and sources.Sixth, and this is a sad one many local people are now being drawn into low wage service sector jobs where they are not strong stake-holders in society and don’t believe that politics can change much in their lives and may well be right.

  2. I emailed Kari Hulac about the reported folding of Patch. According to her your reported demise is perhaps premature. I have left the response from Kari here for your reference.

    Hi Thomas,

    San Leandro Patch and all of our sites are alive and thriving and doing great. We’re launching Berkeley soon and hiring to add a site in Pleasant Hill.

    Thanks for writing to check with me.



    – Show quoted text –
    On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 1:15 PM, Thomas Clarke wrote:
    Marga Lacabe reported today that Patch San Leandro will power down. Can you confirm San Leandro? How about the balance of the Patch sites in the East Bay? I am specifically interested in those that you are responsible for. Thomas Clarke

    Kari Hulac

    Regional Editor

    Newark, Union City, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore, Danville-Alamo, Walnut Creek, Clayton


    Twitter: @EastBayPatch

  3. Thomas, Hulac is giving you the AOL party line. Whether she believes it herself or not, I can’t say. But all you have to do is look at the changes, announced & implemented, to see where Patch is going, and the numbers to see how long it can last.

  4. Marga, your focus on telling the big lie, quoting incompletely, and bald faced lies bring back the McCarthy era and Red Baiting of the Sixties. Your headline is flat out not accurate. Your sources are out of context, that is non-Patch. The three folks who moved on moved as young people to jobs that they liked, not the daily grind of Patch.

    I am amazed that you can continue to not fact check yourself and proclaim as fact those things that are not fact. You use disinformation techniques like the US government does to debunk or override actual facts. I thought there was some integrity to your position.

    I have no particular love of Patch itself. I think that they are way too white bread. That being said, your own attacks without foundation and untrue headlines are exactly like the crap that Fox-Beck-Ailes-Limbaugh churns out.

    Integrity is what is called for. Get some.

  5. Thomas, pray, which fact do you consider to be a “lie” and on what basis?

  6. Marga,

    Here are your three lies:

    1. “to announce the death of the San Leandro Patch.” Just conjecture on your part. One could easily predict anything, but to declare it as so is like Fox or the tabloids. Irresponsible, unfounded and untrue. Tacky also.

    2. “Jill Replogle is looking for another job.” Not true. You did not ask her, perhaps you should, though I do not know why she should even respond to you. You lack even the veneer of journalism. You are more like a troll.

    3. “While Huffington later announced that Patch would be hiring as many as 800 extra journalists – about one per Patch -, most of those jobs never materialized” You did not cite an authority and this is not true. Berkeley and Pleasant Hill are both being added. If you had asked you would have been able to print an accurate statement

    I actually am not a partisan for Patch, they try to muzzle a free comment and are hopelessly tied to the white bread concepts of AOL. That being said, just about the only bright light have been editors in Newark and San Leandro.

    There is a difference between printing lies and being a forum for a lively debate. The trolls who inhabit the East Bay Citizen are no less redolent than your article. A retraction and apolgy to Patch and Jill is appropriate.

  7. Thomas, I welcome your criticism but try to be at least accurate and fair in what you criticize.

    1- San Leandro Talk is a blog, it expresses my opinions and yes, my conjectures based on the facts that I lay out. If you are uncomfortable with conjectures you are better off sticking to the dry news. I recommend San Leandro Bytes.

    2- The whole sentence reads: “My guess is Jill Replogle, the local editor, is already looking for a new job.”. Indeed, that’s my guess. Again, if conjecture is a problem for you, this is just not the right place for you.

    3- This information comes from Forbes. I hadn’t linked to it when I wrote the post, as I had referred to this same Forbes article before, but I added the link now. Yes, I’m sure it’s all a big conspiracy and Forbes is lying too.

  8. Marga, I appreciate your non response.

    1. I am not at all uncomfortable with conjecture. It is your application of the big lie that is surprising. The headline is a lie. You have no source that SL Patch is to be buried shortly. It is completely unfounded and is your opinion. But as Goebbels said and did, keep repeating it and everyone will soon accept it. The melding of fascism and progressive rehetoric is lamentable. I am not offended.

    2. You are right I did confuse journalism and truth with your blog. I should have corrected my thoughts and relegated your blog to the same quality as East Bay Citizen. Steve, Nick and you do have a lot in common.

    3. Your citation of Forbes does not substantiate the new Patch sites for Berkeley and Pleasant Hill. You ignored those points, again going back to the big lie.

    Using Forbes as an authority is somewhat laughable given their relationship in opposition to AOL and Huffington. It is not like Forbes to be highly partisan. Had you indicated that initially I would have responded that you have to be kidding.

    Of course it is your blog. I fully expect you to edit and censor and deny access to the blog when you find that the posts are not in keeping with your own sense of rhetoric.

    Again I am no fan of Patch, but their integrity is not suspect. Yours is. That you represent Democrats is a tragedy for the party of no small account. I have been a lifetime Democrat and I am certain that your polarizing polemics and proselytizing will alienate more than contribute to the 2012 election season and campaign.

  9. Thomas, you are free to rant as much as you want on my blog, as long as you keep your attacks confined to me and to public figures. But just so you know, while I’ll be happy to address any legitimate points you make in the future, I’m not going to respond to angry rants. Once upon a time I might have tried to understand why my post would have caused an emotional response of such magnitude on you, but I have kids of my own right now and I don’t feel a need to mother grown men.

  10. Marga, I have now followed the link you provided to Forbes. I was impressed with the RIP and little did I realize that you plagiarized the RIP from the article you cited.

    Good ethics there. In high school you would be suspended and in college you would be failed in class for submitting other’s work as your own. In business you would be fired. As a lawyer, though you will not have to worry about it, since the legal ethics do not apply here.

    Once again you have proven my point about integrity. Jeff Borcovici blogged about AOL. What you left out and likely intentionally disregarded is that Bercovici is actually a disgruntled former AOL employee. That is readily accessed and confirmed by the site. So much for research and accuracy on your part. No disclosure. Reminds me of the cess pool of Rush Limbaugh.

    Bercovici is a blogger with no journalistic chops on his resume. He is not a real journalist. The good thing is that he says so, unlike you. Most of the article, which you cherry picked has to do with Huffington’s policy of not paying her contributors and the resultant class action suit.

    You left off that if she loses the case, it will likely impact you as well. This is not conjecture, but an application of the findings from the case. I guess there would be some justice in that. As soon as your own electronic efforts gain some profit, those of us who comment will likely be able to assert a right to a portion of that based on the controversy and readership you gain. The law is still growing. Perhaps everyone will be allowed to pluck the low hanging fruit.

    Here is what Bercovici says about himself. You can confirm by going back to the blog and pulling up his unsubstantiated bio about himself.

    “I’ve been covering the business of news, information and entertainment in one form or another for more than 10 years. Most recently, I was part of the Great Premium Content Experiment at AOL as a media columnist for the business website DailyFinance. Before that, I created a media blog for Conde Nast Portfolio (R.I.P.). Earlier, I was part of the re-relaunch team for Radar magazine (again, R.I.P.), where I wrote about media, entertainment and politics, and I also spent a couple of years co-writing the media column in WWD. I’d probably be bored of this beat by now if everything weren’t so radically different than it was when I started.”

    Requiescat In Pace.

  11. Forbes has a very interesting article today about AOL in this post-Huffington period. The gist of it is that as Patch goes, so does AOL. AOL needs Patch to be profitable, but it has until 2013 or so for it to start making $. Meanwhile they have a lot of cash flow from their connectivity business which they can invest in even more Patches.

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