AOL plans to close, sell or find partners for nearly a third of its Patch.com local-news sites, the company's chief executive said Wednesday.
Of the roughly 900 hyperlocal editions nationwide, nearly 300 are not successful and not likely to attract enough traffic or revenue, Tim Armstrong said in AOL's second-quarter earnings call with analysts.
Long Island has more than 40 Patch websites, which provide news, information and human interest stories, often written by local residents. It was unclear Wednesday which, if any, of the Long Island sites would be closed, sold or partnered off. Two Patch editors and an AOL spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.
Mayor Paul Pontieri of Patchogue said he believes his local edition is busy enough to survive. The site has kept residents informed during emergencies such as superstorm Sandy, provided real-time updates on local board meetings and posted photos of parades and other village events, and its local editor is quite engaged in the community, he said. "They do give information out very quickly," he said.
However, Pontieri also said local residents were more likely to get information from traditional newspapers than from Patch, according to surveys conducted during the most recent election. Pontieri was re-elected in March 2012.
AOL will review its plans for Patch with the company's board Thursday, Armstrong said. "I'm not going to go into tons of detail, because we don't have an approved proposal yet around it," he said. However, he said some Patch editions could be merged, especially those where residents of one town use the downtown commercial center in another town.
"The vision for Patch remains simple," Armstrong told analysts. "Put a platform in town that allows offline things to be done online." The sites aim to provide high-quality local information, allow people to upload and share information, and provide a forum for online advertising and commerce, Armstrong said.
AOL remains "fully committed" to Patch, the company's chief financial officer, Karen Dykstra, said on the call.
AOL has cut Patch's costs by 25 percent this year, and further cuts are in the works, Armstrong said. The cost for each Patch edition is now less than the $150,000 figure cited by AOL a year or a year and a half ago, and the remaining sites will run at a "much, much, much lower" cost than that, he said. The hyperlocal network is expected to be profitable by the fourth quarter, Armstrong said.
Many traditional media companies have been "vying" to partner with Patch, he said.
In its second-quarter financial results, AOL reported a 2 percent revenue increase and said it is buying video advertising platform Adap.tv for $405 million, a bet on the promise of online video ads. With AP