Getting Patched? Start your own news site

Patch editors who are being laid off: if you've got the drive to be an entrepreneur, we've got a network

August 16, 2013 by Dylan Smith


Those Patch editors who being laid off should take a few days to enjoy some much-deserved time with their families, and then get in touch with one of the hundred-plus members of Local Independent Online News Publishers. If you've got the drive to be an entrepreneur, we've got a network of independent publishers who are ready and willing to help you establish a news outlet that is focused on your community.

Start your own indie news site, and join us! You won't have to cover a cat show (unless you want to — you're the boss, after all), and nobody will fire you for snapping a photo.

AOL's Patch is failing not because local news isn't a solid business, but because they're not local.

The local news industry is strong, healthy and growing — the real local segment of the industry. LION members and our many colleagues running local news websites are demonstrating that every day.

Local doesn't scale. We've seen it again and again; giant chains trying to templatize the production of news. That's not a tactic that worked in print for Gannett and others, and it certainly won't work online. The troubles of large-scale attempts at covering local news are only relevant to LION Publishers in that they show the contrast between the operations of local businesses and chains.

Networked plays such as Patch fail precisely because they are not local. They seek to profit from communities, rather than being invested in them. Centralized planning leads to success in journalism just as effectively as it worked for Soviet agriculture.

The national networked plays haven't, but many locally run news outlets are finding success – because their readers and sponsors value their community connections. Local news sites can connect local small business owners with the engaged local readers who are their customer base — and do so effectively and affordably.

We regularly see LION members announcing that their readership and revenues are reaching new heights, that they're hiring new staffers and deepening their coverage.

Local news is successful when it truly is local — historically, when newspapers and radio stations were owned by families or local partnerships, they served their communities more effectively. Chains broke that model, focusing more on quarterly reports, stock prices and executive salaries than long-term investments. Local news organizations must be of their communities, not just in them to ship profits out of town. Local news must respect readers: know what they want to know, know what they need to know, and provide it quickly, accurately and comprehensively. Cookie-cutter editorial priorities mandated on a national level are the complete opposite of that.

The withering of Patch isn't the end of local news online. Rather, it's a chance for talented, motivated entrepreneurs to tend their own gardens.

— Dylan Smith

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