Looks like another online reporting experiment can't be Patched up, alas
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, December 16, 2013
Nobody has figured out how to make a living online by reporting news in the traditional sense - as compared to rewriting other people's news, ranting about news found by other people, or making slideshows about it, all of which seem profitable enough.
It seems we can include Patch in the can't-figure-out-online-reporting-business-model category.
The interesting attempt by a big corporation to combine lots of local reporters into a sort of fine-grained Online USA Today is in big trouble. The NY Times' David Carr has a column about it today, calling it AOL head Tim Armstrong's "white whale" in a Melvillian reference.
From our point of view, the funny thing is that Carr mentions Nashua Patch as an example of an unlikely spot to place a Patch site, presumably because we're so backwater and out of the way by Manhattan standards. Yet Nashua is the biggest community in New Hampshire to get its own Patch site. Milford is more unlikely, especially because it can get overriden by the much bigger Milford, Conn., Patch.
As I noted in August, the summertime cutbacks in Patch left New Hampshire comparatively unscathed, since no sites were closed, although several editors were laid off and sites were combined (e.g., Amherst and Merrimack now have one editor/reporter, instead of two). Even so, Patch's local news coverage has declined noticeably since, despite efforts by overworked one-person bureaus.
Print might be a dinosaur that is shrinking fast, but when it comes to supporting a reasonable number of professional reporters - those who can make a semblance of a living from reporting alone, which gives them the incentive to do all the boring stuff necessary to do the job well - print remains the only model that works financially.
I don't think this will last, however, so I wish somebody would figure out a digital business model that works.