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Amid Promises Of Profitability, AOL Patch Sales Head Defects To Google

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Scott Colontonio is leaving AOL’s hyperlocal network Patch after little over a year to join Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Business Insider reports. The loss of Colontonio, who will be working on the search giant’s commerce field sales team, comes a month after AOL (NYSE: AOL) SVP of local sales Mike DeLuca left the company.

Needless to say, the exiting of two execs doesn’t necessarily constitute a brain drain. But it could complicate things for AOL, which has already warned investors of a soft Q3 ad market just as as the company appeared to be turning its display sales business around.

In the meantime, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference yesterday, reiterated a point he made in June, namely that some Patch outposts would be profitable by the end of the year.

On top of that, in a memo obtained by paidContent, Patch President Warren Webster pointed to a mix of commitments from local and national advertisers, including HomeDepot, Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard.

In the meantime, Patch is currently up to 863 sites and counting. In his memo, Webster points to comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) numbers that show significant audience growth over the past nine months. The network has 10 million unique monthly visitors according to comScore, up 250 percent since January.

Like all parts of AOL these days, the pressure and scrutiny is intense. As such, both DeLuca and Colontonio were seasoned sales execs in the local arena, something Patch certainly needs. DeLuca, who arrived last November from local online ad sales and lead gen provider Yodle, while Colontonio was a veteran digital ad sales exec at Gannett (NYSE: GCI).

Below is the full memo from Patch President Warren Webster


Amidst the newest wave of external chatter about Patch, I thought we should all take moment during this busy week and take stock of what we’ve accomplished so far. After all, no one knows how we’re doing better than we do, right?

Early on at Patch, we knew several things to be true: We knew we had compiled the best team possible, and that this team had created a solid, well-thought-out plan. We knew that this plan was ambitious — even audacious — and would make an enormous impact on the media world. We knew that historically, whenever anyone built anything as big and important as what we were about to, they faced constant scrutiny and questions from the press and others as they grew. But most importantly we knew that with the right combination of people, plan, and opportunity, Patch would be a colossal success. We’re now seeing this play out exactly according to plan.

Let’s think about the state of Patch right now:
We have built an audience of over 10 million unique monthly visitors according to comScore (several million more based on internal numbers!), growing 250% since January 1, 2011.
We have built incredibly talented editorial and sales teams across the country.
We have created the framework for a comprehensive local advertising platform, growing revenue significantly since the beginning of this year, and shipping the first version of a groundbreaking new way for advertisers to reach local consumers — with tests and next versions on their way.
We’ve successfully launched a deals platform across all of Patch – and yesterday posted our biggest deals revenue day to date.
We’ve received thousands of pieces of positive feedback from across the nation – along with kudos from local officials, organizations, and businesses.
We have local advertisers helping us by sharing their Patch wins, as in these videos.
Having built a large and valuable audience, we are showing initial success in our aggressive, targeted plan for revenue and growth. National advertisers are seeing the power of our platform (including HomeDepot, Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard, to name just a few), and local and regional advertisers are amazed at the new and exciting ways we’re able to connect them with their customers. So let everyone outside of Patch speculate; we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, in bigger and better ways, and continue to serve our users, advertisers, and employees.

The bottom line about our bottom line? The competition is nervous. The media may be skeptical. We are neither.

Go Patch!

– Warren

Warren Webster