A bit of tension has always surrounded the Aol-owned Patch. The hyper-local blogging platform has caused complaints from its sales team and there have been whispers about the company’s level of commitment to the platform. The latest rumor says that Aol is contemplating spinning it into a next-gen answer to Craigslist.
According to AdAge, Patch will be going through some serious restructuring, including more focus on “listings and commerce.” CEO Tim Armstrong told the site that a new iteration of Patch, due later this year, “is really about unlocking the vitality in towns… groups, commerce, and the social aspects of towns for a much deeper, richer engagement level.”
Armstrong went on to talk a little more directly about Patch and its relation to Craigslist. “Craigslist and other companies like that that sell used merchandize haven’t really scaled into communities. They’ve been very metro-focused. One of the opportunities for Patch… is the ability for us on the commerce side to offer the people the ability to do listings and others things like that locally.”
Realigning its product from hyper-local news to hyper-local commerce is a pretty big pivot, and one that would affect the many, many freelance writers Patch employs. Not to mention the fact that taking on Craigslist is a formidable task: despite any of the collective Internet’s problems with Craigslist and its refusal to massively update its interface and become even incrementally more user-friendly, Craigslist has time on its side. When it comes to a crowd-sourced platform, that’s a major investment.
Still, the idea makes sense. It could allow for Patch to cut costs while leveraging the local connections it’s been making. While there are plenty of criticisms for Patch, it’s certainly been able to build a relatively impressive following. Whatever the outcome, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Patch will be cleaning house over the next year.