Patch will staff outlets in top-performing areas only, memo says

Patch will fully staff outlets in 14 designated market areas “with the highest traffic and revenue” only, a note Wednesday morning from new CEO Bud Rosenthal tells employees. Those DMAs include Hartford, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York and Detroit, Rosenthal writes.

“Open & Peripheral” areas in those DMAs will be “Lightly staffed,” Rosenthal’s memo says. Patches outside the Top 14 will no longer be staffed. Those Patches “will continue to receive daily posts from our central publishing team, and users will be able to contribute comments, events and blogs, as well as converse through our boards on the sites,” Rosenthal writes. “We are also making arrangements to have these sites screened for appropriate content.”

Full memo follows.

Patch Team – I would like to share an update with you as we are continuing to follow through on the plan, outlined back in August, to focus our resources on our most economically viable sites.

As we communicated earlier, we are in active discussions with partners to help us to deliver on the Patch mission in a more efficient way. While we still plan to refocus resources on our top 14 DMAs, some of our potential partners have expressed interest in communities outside the top 14 DMAs, so for now, we have decided to keep all of our current towns open as discussions continue. You may recall that this was a possibility that we discussed as a team in the past. Please note that this decision does not change the status of editorial staff that departed on October 15th.

In an effort to continue to be transparent we would like to go into more detail about the staffing for these towns. Since our towns have different levels of traffic and revenue, we have developed different staffing models according to the resources that a town can support. In addition, certain DMAs have either historically performed better for us than others, or simply have higher concentrations of Patch towns. As a result, we combined these factors to segment our towns into three buckets:

1. Staffed: Our very best towns with the highest traffic and revenue in the Top 14 DMAs, which we have also called Core & Near Core (Top 14 DMAs are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington D.C.)
2. Lightly Staffed: Towns with lower traffic and/or revenue in the Top 14 DMAs, which we have also called Open & Peripheral
3. Unstaffed: All towns in the remaining 17 DMAs

As previously discussed, on October 7th, we closed 5 towns within the bottom 17 DMAs (Fort Stewart, Maryland Heights, North Charleston, Northeast Columbia, Webster Groves). This was done to help us learn how to optimize our closing procedures for Unstaffed towns.

Even though our Unstaffed towns will not have editors, they will continue to receive daily posts from our central publishing team, and users will be able to contribute comments, events and blogs, as well as converse through our boards on the sites. We are also making arrangements to have these sites screened for appropriate content.

I know the communities you serve appreciate all that you do for them – and I in particular would like to express thanks for your continued commitment and patience as we work through this period.

Bud

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  • Varina Michaelis

    As much as it’s great to have jobs (I’m assuming these were paid positions) why not ask for volunteers to keep the smaller towns going? Get a couple of people on a city and train them. Let them handle the stories, alerts, etc. Be available for mentoring and teaching. It’s obviously something that is needed. As the word gets out you can grow each site slowly (future ads?). I would volunteer to help.

  • Photodude719

    They grew too fast, lost a ton of money, now are pulling back to key areas. People lose sight of the fact it takes many years to make the journalism business work for any organization. The problem now for Patch is perception. Our local Patch’s area of coverage continues to expand. It’s not even a local news website any longer. Unfortunately, Patch has just become a bad brand. AOL is learning this the hard way.

  • dvdj

    Earth to Mike: And if the ad revenue isn’t flowing in those small towns and suburban areas, who’s paying for the operation of those sites? Journalism is a business, not a theory or a charity case.

  • Mike Lange

    Hmmm. When Patch was first unveiled, I thought it was designed to serve small towns and suburban areas not covered well by the major dailies. So much for that theory. I think that shadow in the background could be the grim reaper.