An article in The New Yorker says the AOL hyperlocal venture Patch is probably too costly to last very long. In a nutshell, author Ken Auletta says the hyperlocal sites created by Patch are not creating compelling enough content to stay in business — not without spending a lot more money to pay people to create that content.
He’s right, I think, that there’s not enough money in ad revenue to make Patch worthwhile. But that’s not an indictment of the hyperlocal concept. The thing that makes hyperlocal coverage valuable is not the national aggregation of hundreds of little-bitty audiences for national advertisers. It’s the customer service offered to local advertisers by a local media outlet operated by a local businessperson. Patch can gather local content, but until it can reach into each community and offer personal service to each business, the hyperlocal nut will remain uncracked.