AOL to hire 800+ new staffers for Patch

Faith Merino · April 13, 2011 · Short URL:


AOL is doing all sorts of firing and hiring. One month after AOL cut 900 employees, it’s now hiring as many as 800 more to beef up its hyperlocal news network,, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of AOL’s media operations, says that she plans to boost content among the Patch sites.

The final number remains undecided, but Huffington says that the plan is to give each Patch site its own team. Additionally, bloggers and commentary will also be added into the Patch sites. At present, each one of the 800 Patch sites is run by a single full-time editor and a team of freelancers, but the plan is to reduce the sites’ dependency on freelancers and add at least one full-time journalist to each market to round out the team.

But how much sense does it really make to funnel a lot of money and resources into a network of sites that aren’t offering a big return. These days the average Patch story only gets about 100 page views, which is up 80% over last year. Sure, they’re all pretty new, so maybe 100 page views per article isn’t bad for a site that’s only been around for a few months, but let’s be realistic here. Anyone who lives in a suburb gets one of those free weekly local newspapers that covers all of the latest community events, but who actually reads those? I know exactly one person who occasionally cracks open the local newspaper to see what’s going on in her local community: my retired 73-year-old grandmother.  She has a lot of time on her hands and she’s not too tech-savvy, so there ya go.

After cutting 900 employees, 150 of which were editorial staffers, following AOL’s acquisition of the Huffington Post, it seems lopsided that the company is now channeling its resources into hiring new staffers for Patch. AOL has also said that it plans to increase Patch’s nationwide reach to 1000 locations by the end of the year, which will cost them something to the tune of $120 million, according to Barclays analyst Douglas Anmuth.

So let's break this down. AOL cut employees from more cost efficient sites that reach a larger audience, to reinvest its resources in a costly network of sites that, by their very hyperlocal nature, reach a smaller audience.

It just doesn’t make sense!

Who knows, maybe AOL will prove me wrong and come out with some big numbers some time down the line. And then they can show the world that their investment in Patch, which was by all accounts ill-fated, was actually a good move. 


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