Why did Patch Fail? My Thoughts on The Future of Journalism

By Gresham Harkless Jr.
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A few weeks ago, I had a 1-2-1 with someone who works for a media company that was similar to Patch. During the 1-2-1, we talked a lot about media and journalism and where I thought it was going. I told him that I had worked as a freelance writer initially at Patch and then a few years later after being laid off, I worked as a “Local Advertising Representative.” I told him having (albeit for a short time) worked for Patch, I was determined to grow CEO Blog Nation (cbnation.co) but do it with a strong business model.

Upon hearing this, he asked me the golden question, “Why did Patch Fail?”

It’s hard to answer this question and say it was one thing. It’s also hard to determine and measure failure. If Patch is still around (albeit in a completely different way) is it still a failure?

But I entertained the question and gave him my insight based on what I saw but even more on what I read.

I think it comes down to these two words: business model. I think any company or business that’s starting out must first come to the realization of who they are and who they aren’t and how to grow their business. Especially in the journalism industry, this can be difficult. It’s expensive to produce good quality news and it’s even more important that the news draws eyeballs. With eyeballs comes advertisers and with advertisers those eyeballs need to buy. It’s that simple. That’s the traditional business model. Patch wasn’t able to keep up with their spending and trying to create one model and replicate it across 900 different sites is difficult. I think it had a chance if someone was approaching it like a marathon of 5-10 different sites and then replicating that model and growing. Patch didn’t do that. It tried to grow and grow fast.

From reading a lot about journalism over the past few years, I’ve noticed this has changed. It’s no longer that model anymore. It’s becoming harder and harder to sustain it. Many local sources are offering different ways to generate revenue including subscriptions, selling of services, products, etc.

One of the things that I did over the past year as I read more and more about the future of journalism and seeing people like Jeff Bezos buy the Washington Post was to see that now journalism was becoming enshrined in business. It’s the reason that I have the quote on my site that “Every company is a media company.” It’s now relatively inexpensive to produce “news.” Have people follow you on social media, send a newsletter and draw them to your blog.

I think over the next few years we will see more and more of this–businesses that are media companies. Using digital tools to directly reach the audience you are targeting for your products and services. It’s on of the reasons I merged Blue 16 Media and CBNation.co.  I think this is the only way or journalism to survive. This is the business model of the future of journalism. It’s why Gary Vaynerchuk walks around being filmed. It’s why people are documenting their lives on snapchat. It’s the future.

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