TLP: It's Not Called the Internet for Nothing
Remember when AOL was a way to get out of wherever you were? The $2.99-an-hour ticket to anywhere else, the further away the better? Psyche. Now it's the other way around.
City council meetings, high school football games and store openings may seem like small town news, but they are critical to AOL’s revival effort.Why is it hard to make "hyperlocal news" financially successful? Here's a suggestion: Nobody is interested in just local news. Not the consumer, not the advertisers and not the producer. It's a piece of a bigger puzzle. Just like AOL realized when it pulled people together from their dens and bedrooms and dining room tables way back when, there's a bigger world out there.
Over the last year and a half, AOL, the former Internet colossus, has spent tens of millions of dollars to build local news sites across the country through Patch.com. The idea is that the service would fill the gap in coverage left by local newspapers, many of which are operating on a string after declines in advertising revenue.
Patch has already set up shop in nearly 800 towns. By the end of this year, it expects that to be in 1,000 — each one with an editor and a team of freelance writers.
Traffic on individual sites is low; former editors say that the average post attracts just 100 views and that they considered 500 page views a wild success. But the overall traffic is growing quickly.
In December, Patch had just over three million unique visitors, 80 times that of a year earlier, according to comScore.
Yet over the years, a number of so-called hyperlocal news sites have failed, and the idea is largely unproved financially.
So suck it up and realize that no one who's going online is going to be satisfied with "hyperlocal" anything and that local news fits in with regional and national and world news — and maybe a niche interest or two, ahem — and let the consumer put those all together. There are plenty of lazy and not-so-lazy writers out there to provide the content. People aren't as dumb as they might have been at $2.99 an hour.