Patch is Downsizing: A Chance for Smaller Online News Sites?
Is everything small and medium businesses jinxed? Perhaps not, but at least things related to SMBs is pretty challenging these day – online and off line. The latest sad story is the downsizing which is happening in hyper-local news site, Patch.
Just launched a small business section a while ago, Patch is under scrutiny of their parent company, AOL, for some time – which results in a tough decision: AOL lays off 500 employees at Patch and either consolidating or closing 150 of 900 Patch’s local news sites.
The decision is based on the typical consideration factors: Patch’s overall performance is below expectations in two major areas – online traffic and ad sales. Furthermore, the lay-off is to maintain the profitability of Patch and AOL in general.
A tough decision, but it must be made, anyway: AOL need to allocate their budget somewhere else, such as the allegedly more profitable Huffington Post and TechCrunch, two prolific web properties owned by AOL.
The downsizing of Patch raises a couple of questions beg for answers: What has gone wrong? Is online news business dead?
No, I don’t think so. Just like what AOL did, we need to keep costs down, and run things in effective and efficient manner – and do it before we embark on a hiring spree.
How to thrive your online news site
From my personal experience in running several online magazines, as well as from my personal observation on some prolific online magazines in business niches, here are some lessons learned:
1. Start small and stay small is often the better way to go
Most online magazines started out small. They don’t have the financial resources Patch enjoys. They bootstrap everything and quite often, as they grow, they want to stay small. They do hire people, but instead of hiring hundreds of people, they keep things efficient and effective. Perhaps this is the reason why many of them survive.
2. Befriend contributors
The magic word in online publishing is outsourcing. Sure, hiring in-house journalists and reporters is great, but outsourcing for news and updates is more profitable in the long run.
Let’s take an excellent example: Small Business Trends. Lead by small business expert Anita Campbell, the small business online magazine is visited by tens of thousands of people on daily basis.
Instead of hiring many in-house journalists and reporters, the site is run by more than 350 contributors worldwide, covering many topics related to small business.
3. Go local, go niche
Patch has an ambitious vision: To take on established local online publications. It’s definitely challenging to go head on like Patch – below-target traffic and ad sales prove that fighting over a limited piece of the market pie is not ideal. Perhaps it’s way much better to establish a local, niche-based online magazine with unique perspective.
It seems that small online magazines are far from dead; in fact, the fall of Patch proves that in online publishing, size doesn’t matter. Indeed, online is still a huge market and independent online publishing companies still can compete even without a strong budget under their belt.
So, what’s your view? Is online publishing dead? Is there still a chance for independent online magazines to establish their market share? How about Patch – can it maintain its level of traffic, which reached millions a month, after the downsizing and local new sites consolidation?
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