AOL’s Patch network of hyperlocal news sites is making its first major update since AOL’s purchase of the Huffington Post last month, integrating Huffington Post technology in an effort to get citizens in each of its communities to contribute their own content to its sites. In a memo today, first reported by Forbes and included in part below, Patch Editor In Chief Brian Farnham says the company wants each of its 800 sites to sign up 10 community members to participate before the initiative officially launches next week.
Farnham refers to the effort in the memo as a “full-on course correction heading Patch in the direction we want to go” but he told us in an interview that it does not represent a shift in Patch’s strategy, which to date has involved paying one full-time staff member to create original content for each of its sites. “Our mission is to serve local residents with news and information they need,” he said. “We’ve been doing that with professional journalists. That’s not going to change. What we’ve added is on top of that.”
Local editors will reach out to community members, including frequent commenters, to get them to contribute their views and there will also be a way for people to suggest their own articles. Community members won’t be paid. The contributions, Farnham said, will have a different design than the articles Patch editors write on the site. “These are not assignments. That is what we do normally. That’s separate,” he said.
Here’s the relevant part of the memo, which was provided to us by AOL:
The introduction of blogging on our sites is far more than just the release of a new feature, like Q&A. It is a full-on course correction heading Patch in the direction we want to go. It’s going to unlock community and engagement and thread us even deeper into the fabric of the communities we’re serving. Yes, it’s an adjustment, but that’s the short term pain. The long term gain is the kind of site we always envisioned — and planned on — becoming … We’ve set a big goal here but I KNOW we can hit it. Ten times 800 sites is 8000 bloggers — wouldn’t it be amazing to have that many local voices sounding off right out of the gate? Let’s shoot for it and let’s do it.