Patch Gets Its 500th Site — And Demolishes A Paywall?

AOL’s hyperlocal network Patch has launched its 500th site this morning, fulfilling CEO Tim Armstrong’s August pledge. In other Patch news, its presence may have led an established local newspaper to kill its paywall experiment in light of the added — and freely accessible — competition from the AOL (NYSE: AOL) network.

After erecting its paywall three months ago, The Sonoma Index-Tribune, a twice-weekly local California newspaper, has decided to stop charging its readers for access, rival paper The Press Democrat reported (via Webnewser)

Bill Lynch, the The Sonoma Index-Tribune‘s publisher, didn’t specifically cite the competition from Patch. He only said that the $5 monthly access fee was not a sustainable business model for the paper. Whatever the problems inherent in the business model are, the introduction of Patch probably didn’t help.

Meanwhile, Patch’s latest location is Hopkins, MN (total population: 17,145). The network has come a long way since last January, when there were about 30 Patch sites. Armstrong, who was an early investor in Patch before he arrived at AOL, has made local a major focus of the company’s plans, so Patch is probably not yet done building out its presence.