Is AOL Doing a Patch Job on Local News?

Let's hope the local news of the future can avoid the fate of content mills.

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about cities, spotlighting Los Angeles, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month. You can subscribe to GOOD here.
It used to be that major news outlets gave local news little thought (or column inches). But today, “local” is considered an untapped—and lucrative—revenue source, as well as something that’s cheaper to produce.
It makes sense then for local news to be a grassroots endeavor, like the old-school newspaper produced by resident volunteers in my San Francisco neighborhood. It covers stories of little interest to those who don’t live here—on things like parking lots and farmers markets—but it’s a surprisingly comprehensive resource for those who do.
Then there’s AOL’s, which has hired editors in hundreds of locations across the United States and creates new outposts regularly. Beat writers have a connection to their “patches,” but their corporate bosses don’t. When AOL acquired Patch in 2009, it was celebrated for “saving journalism”—but that’s a refrain you won’t hear much of these days. Rather than actually engaging communities, Patch serves AOL’s efforts to reinvent itself in the mold of Demand Media and similar content mills.
In AOL’s master plan, leaked earlier this year, it was revealed that CEO Tim Armstrong had asked his editors to take into account “the profitability consideration,” which amounts to around 40,000 page views for a “premium article,” when deciding whether to produce content.
A report on the status of my neighborhood’s farmers market will never get that kind of traffic. But does that mean the information isn’t useful? If you follow local news closely, it means you’re invested in your community and its well-being. The folks who put out my humble local paper do so out of a love for their neighborhood, not a desire for page views. For Patch to succeed as a local news source, it must find ways to earn money and serve its readers. If it fails to do this, it will leave communities with a dearth of information about what matters to them.

A two-minute television ad from New Zealand is a gut punch to dog lovers who smoke cigarettes. "Quit for Your Pets" focuses on how second-hand smoke doesn't just affect other humans, but our pets as well.

According to Quitline New Zealand, "when you smoke around your pets, they're twice as likely to get cancer."

Keep Reading
via Bossip / Twitter

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took aim at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg onstage at Wednesday's Las Vegas Democratic debate, likening the billionaire businessman to President Donald Trump and questioning his ability to turn out voters.

Sanders began by calling out Bloomberg for his stewardship of New York's stop and frisk policy that targeted young black men.

Keep Reading
via United for Respect / Twitter

Walmart workers issued a "wake up call" to Alice Walton, an heir to the retailer's $500 billion fortune, in New York on Tuesday by marching to Walton's penthouse and demanding her company pay its 1.5 million workers a living wage and give them reliable, stable work schedules.

The protest was partially a response to the company's so-called "Great Workplace" restructuring initiative which Walmart began testing last year and plans to roll out in at least 1,100 of its 5,300 U.S. stores by the end of 2020.

Keep Reading