Patch Has Cost AOL At Least $200 Million So Far, And Its Traffic Is Small And Flat


Way back in 2011, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said he would spend $160 million that year building out a massive networks of local news sites. 

Called “Patch” it would fill one of the last “white spaces” on the Internet.

The next year, Patch’s price tag was $50 million plus.

Along with Huffington Post, it was Armstrong’s big bet for turning around the company.

In the years since, AOL – or at least AOL stock – has done great.

But Patch is not why.

(AOL’s $1 billion patent sale to Microsoft is why.)

Patch has been a bad investment.

Running it has cost AOL at least $200 million over the past three years, and as much as $500 million.

In return, it’s gotten a network of sites that just aren’t very popular or getting more so.

In April 2012, Patch had 12 million unique visitors in the US, according to ComScore.

In April 2013, Patch had 12 million unique visitors in the US, according to ComScore.

Everyone once in a while, we get a note from a Patch reader to letting us know the place is becoming a ghost town.

Here is one like that:

Hi there!  I have read and enjoyed your stories on AOL Patch since the Patch first came to my city, a couple of years ago.  I’ve been waiting to read one from you about the final death of the Patch, after it introduced its new format/model a couple of weeks ago. 

As a reader and frequent commenter, I found the new format unwelcoming so I stopped going.  The same is true of most of the people who used to comment on the stories.  While before the change some stories had dozens of comments, now you are lucky if you get a couple.

What is perhaps most indicative of how dead the site is, is that we had two huge stories in our town yesterday: a teacher was charged with having child porn in his school issued laptop (after showing students a picture of him naked), and masked armed robbers broke into a residence and even fired shots.  Both stories appeared in the patch, neither was shared or commented by anyone.

Of course, comments don’t equal hits, but I’d like to read whether this new format has encountered similar responses in other areas.  

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