No, this isn’t a post about Donald Trump and the Apprentice. This is a post about recent AOL news and why we pulled our blogs off the Patch in our local town of Princeton, New Jersey.
In a lame attempt to address a few hundred Patch employees in a meeting and discuss possible future cuts of 400 Patch sites, AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong showed his true colors. As the meeting progressed, Abel Lenz, a creative director, took a photo of Tim Armstrong and with a quick domineering freak-out, Abel was fired in front of everyone on the call. Unfortunately for Tim someone recorded the audio of the meeting and fortunately for our us, it is free for all to listen to on Romenesko.com.
“If you think what’s going on right now is a joke, and you want to joke around about it, you should pick your stuff up and leave Patch today. And the reason is, and I’m going to be very specific about this, is Patch from an experience—Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!”
AOL’s the Patch has been competing with many grassroots local sites and online communities across the country at a pretty slow pace for a couple years now. As a local blogger, I’ve been leery about blogging on the Patch since I started. When we first launched our blog, Princeton Daily I thought that posting on the Patch would help drive traffic to my own site so I added some of my own blog content to the Patch. It seemed the readers were less interested there then on my own site and I soon began to realize I was just giving them content for free to help drive their own advertising revenue. I ended up feeling like a “sell out”.
AOL is Snatching Revenue from Local Newspapers
Local independent bloggers are providing AOL with content that in turn helps generate advertising revenue back in AOL’s pocket and those of their shareholders. Aside from local Editors or Journalists who might be salaried this money does not go back into the local community unlike local sites run by local people. This is is a far cry from truly locally run business where successful locally run businesses in turn make a community prosper.
Hyper about HyperLocal
Although I care about local news I get frustrated with needing to go to a different site to see something that is going on in Lawrenceville and get even more annoyed that there is no coverage on towns in between like Montgomery and Hopewell. It seems like the Patch is hyper about Hyperlocal and to a fault because it is narrowing it’s breadth.
AOL isn’t doing anything that our local news outlets like Princeton Packet, Planet Princeton and the Town Topics aren’t already doing in terms of news coverage. Our local newspapers have professional journalists who produce thorough coverage on news in our area and do so with local expertise. Although Princeton Daily isn’t a news site, we have been pushing free Event Listings, Free Classifieds and Forums while leveraging social media to broaden the reach which is a step above what the AOL machine does.
Crime is Not News
The Patch seems to be drawing straws for content. In our area, it seems if news is kind of light then the next thing posted is an alarmist headline about crime in a far or neighboring area or some feed off a local police scanner This isn’t news. This is police blotter material that frankly I don’t care to see on my Facebook feed.
Faking Us Out
AOL is anything but local to Princeton and means big business. This model of putting on a local front is similar to a recent agenda by Petco to squeeze small pet store owners out of business by placing small stores called Unleashed in cities that look like a mom and pop shop but are really big box stores masked as a neighborhood doggie hangout. If you care to support local start thinking about where your support goes. Does it go back to impact local community or to the ticker board on the New York Stock Exchange?
There are always people behind big machines and we hope that the staffers supporting Princeton Patch aren’t affected by future cuts or by their fearless leader’s classless act. A timely memo of apology was issued by Tim to his employees but something about that just seems as authentic as pleather.
In the mean time we’ll continue to support our local writers and local business but will focus on blogging on our own site. Our Event Listings and Free Ads are picking up and we will continue to organically drive our traffic without feeding the “big machine”.
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