AOL plans 500 Patch sites by year's end

Company is trying the crack the market for local Web ads--something no one has yet figured out--by starting digital versions of community newspapers.

Every big Web publisher, and lots of small ones, too, have tried to figure out how to crack the market for local Web ads. No one's figured it out yet.

But AOL feels good enough about Patch, its take on local, to take a minute to boast about its performance. Tim Armstrong's company is announcing that has now opened up 100 Patch outposts--digital versions of community newspapers, each staffed by a sole full-time editor and aided by a group of freelancers.

That's up from 44 at the end of the first quarter. AOL also noted it plans to have 500 up and running by the end of the year. And this allows AOL to boast that it is hiring more journalists than anyone else on the planet this year.

Cool!

But AOL had already announced internally that it would build "hundreds" of Patch outposts this year. And it has already told shareholders that it would spend up to $50 million expanding Patch in 2010. (Armstrong invested in the company when he was still running sales at Google, then snapped it up after taking the reins at AOL last year.)

So there's not a lot of real news here. And given that AOL won't offer specific performance metrics--traffic, ad sales, etc.--about Patch, it's hard to assess how it's really doing.

Still, for the record, AOL says Patch is doing great--and not to worry about gripes that the journalists it has hired are working very long hours for not much pay.

Noted!

Here's my chat with Patch Media President Warren Webster, who founded the company in 2007. What's with the creepy critter perched above his shoulder? No idea.

 

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