When AOL first launched its Patch network, the professed idea of the endeavor was to bring good-old-fashioned, hyperlocal community journalism to the web. That notion appears to be dissolving more every day. Street Fight got a hold of an internal memo from Patch EIC Brian Farnham. It reads in part:
…right now we’ve got 68 sites producing 6 or more articles per day, so we know it can be done. I can also say that because “article” does not have to mean “800 word piece.” And I can say that because of this: in South Florida, 14 sites just completed a three-month test that proved you can do 7 posts a day, hit your UV goals, come in under budget, and cut the LE work hours to between 40-50 hours/week. … So not only is more production possible, done smartly it’s possible to do with less pain.
As anyone who’s ever blogged knows, posting seven aggregated items is certainly doable. But breaking seven original, three-source stories in a day? Not gonna happen. Never. Not unless you have several reporters working for you. Most Patch editors are given a small (and shrinking every day) freelance budget. But not the kind that can afford to hire that much original reporting.
All this, mind you, is fine. If Patch wants to be a blog network there’s nothing wrong with that. But this does confirm what a lot of the skeptics have been saying all along. Real, newspaper-style reported journalism is expensive, time-consuming and, as it stands now, not economically feasible on the web. All the so-called experts who call newspapers dinosaurs for continuing to embrace their print product, take note of what’s happening with Patch.