Insiders bash Patch’s business structure; did AOL over-invest?

PatchA recent Business Insider article took a closer look at AOL’s Patch business model, and all is not well at the hyper-local news arm of the media conglomerate. According to the story, an anonymous Patch salesperson came forward to explain the crippling day-to-day operations within the company. Since the Huffington Post-AOL merger, Patch has become a major focus. AOL has invested somewhere around $120 million dollars in the community news sites this year. The goal is to have 1,000 dedicated sites up and running by 2012.

So it follows to reason that such rampant expansion could be contributing to the reports of a confused and shaky infrastructure. Now had it been just one salesperson who admitted to being a “disgruntled employee,” it would be easy to dismiss the report. But now more and more Patch staffers are coming forward, and this coupled with complaints over pay plaguing the site make it sound as if a mutiny is in our midst. Complaints about low company morale, unreasonable sales models, and unsustainable writer requirements are among the litany of complaints.

There can only really be two conclusions to make here: Either AOL has the uncanny ability to hire the world’s whiniest, least discreet employees, or Patch is coming apart at the seams. Given it’s less-than-clean reputation, it’s difficult not to assume the latter. It’s no secret that AOL is desperate to find a profitable platform, and Patch is one of its two major investments to do this (the other being the $300+ million it spent on the HuffPo merger). While AOL continues to hire writers and create new Patch networks all over the country, it’s really only resulting in driving more traffic to its site, rather than creating any real revenue.

Of course, its employees’ public airing of insider information is perhaps what hurts Patch the most, and adds fuel to critics’ fire. But if there is some truth to these revelations and Patch is unable to steer AOL toward a profitable path, it will have wasted a lot of money, time, and resources in the project. At best, it seems incredibly unclear whether Patch will pay for itself.

Mobile

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Social Media

Invite your friends — Facebook Events can now be shared to Stories

Facebook is testing a way to make plans with friends to attend an event -- through Stories. By sharing an event in Facebook Stories, users can message other friends interested in the event to make plans to attend together.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Social Media

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. users don’t realize Facebook tracks their interests

Did you know Facebook tracks your interests, including political and multicultural affiliations? According to a recent Pew study, 74 percent of adult users in the U.S. have no idea Facebook keeps a running list of your interests.
Mobile

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Social Media

Twitter suffers privacy scare as bug reveals tweets of protected accounts

If you set your Twitter account to private and you have an Android device, you'd better check your settings now. Twitter says it's just fixed a four-year-old bug that flipped the privacy switch to make the account public.