AOL’s network of local news sites, Patch, has about 830 editors.Over the past couple days – after we published Confessions Of Patch Salesperson: “It’s Been A Disaster” – several of them have emailed us to complain about their jobs.
One current Patch editor, who says she was “hired as part of the 2010 end of year push to launch 750 sites,” sent us a note she titled “5 Things to hate about working for Patch,” – a clever play on the “5 Things” posts Patch makes its editors write every week.
The list is below. Before we get to it though, we have to say that some of the complaints sound like complaints almost anyone could make about working at any startup: things are always changing; things are moving too fast. Patch employees should know they’re working at a startup (albeit a huge one), and get used to it. Maybe management should do a better job of explaining that reality. Possibly, it should offer editors equity.
AOL is betting $120 million this year Patch. Clayton Moran of the Benchmark Group says AOL’s fate will “hinge on the success or failure of Patch.” It’s under the supervision of Arianna Huffington.
Here are “5 Things” to hate about working for Patch:
HQ Directives change fast and furiously. Three weeks from hire to launch. A month later came the “Double Down” initiative aimed at doubling user engagement through mandatory content. Next, mandatory daily video (and drop DD). Then Blogs and Curation (curation was quickly killed). Daily video no longer required. Now its Lucky 7s (seven posts a day; when hired, it was four posts a day). And rumour has it something new and patchy is in the pipeline, and will likely need to be implemented in less than 10 days.
Weekly Site Updates. Almost every week, a new version is deployed, resulting in annoying glitches, crashes and work loss. Plus they move things around in the layout so often, its hard to find things or talk a user through something.
The Patch model isn’t sustainable. One full-time employee per site, means one person wears all hats. Content is supplemented by freelancers, however, there is still just one person responsible for running the site, 24/7. No one edits or proofreads. Editors who are good news journalists must also cover Woman’s Club events. While editors who specialize in fluff have to try to wrap their head around ordinances and lawsuits.
Editors are responsible for providing copy seven days a week. In order to take a day off, like Sunday, content must be set up in advance. In order to take a vacation, editors need to find and train their own sub, and pay for them out of the limited freelance budget. Editors are encouraged to prepare content in advance and bring their laptop on vacation instead of hiring a sub.
If I quit, I have to give back this shiny MacBook Pro and the iPhone I coveted for years. Also, former employees are not allowed to freelance in excess of $500 a month (about 10 articles).
We’ve been hearing a lot from Patch editors and sales people. We’d like to continue to. We’d also like to hear from AOL executives who think they aren’t wasting huge amounts of resources on a business. Reach us at 646 376 6014 or [email protected]
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