So much for “hyperlocal” news as the Next Big Thing. Ad Age Digital reports AOL is preparing to make big changes to Patch. Instead of replacing the vanishing hometown newspaper, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong says Patch.com is now on course to take on classified ads giant Craigslist:
But perhaps the most interesting news was AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s comments about upcoming changes to its hyper-local news network Patch. Ad Age has heard in recent months that the much-maligned news network was being rebuilt, with its original code base totally scratched. On today’s earnings call, Mr. Armstrong alluded to this, saying that while the first generation of Patch relied on journalists creating news about a town, the next iteration will also push more into listings and commerce.
Mr. Armstrong also told Ad Age that the new iteration of Patch coming later in 2012 will unlock “the vitality” of towns “for a much deeper, richer engagement level.”
Police blotter listicles about guys shoplifting cases of Axe from the CVS are arguably a pretty rich level of community engagement but it’s hard to argue with the success of Craigslist and the Village Voice Media-owned Backpage. But as AOL may find once all the old code is changed and Patch subdomains re-purposed, there will also be greater potential for controversy.