Patch.com is an independent U.S. local news and information platform, primarily owned by Hale Global. As of May 2014, Patch operated some 906 local and hyperlocal news websites in 23 U.S. states. Patch Media Corporation is the operator of the service.
Patch was founded by Tim Armstrong, Warren Webster and Jon Brod in 2007 after Armstrong said he found a dearth of online information on his hometown of Riverside, Connecticut. The company was then acquired by AOL in 2009 shortly after Armstrong became AOL's CEO. Armstrong told AOL staffers that he recused himself from negotiations to acquire the company and did not directly profit from his seed investment. He instead asked that his seed money be returned to him in the form of AOL stock when it split from Time Warner.
The acquisition occurred on June 11, 2009. AOL paid an estimated $7 million in cash for the news platform as part of its effort to reinvent itself as a content provider beyond its legacy dial-up Internet business. AOL, which split from Time Warner in late 2009, announced in 2010 it would be investing $50 million or more into the startup of the Patch.com network. As part of the acquisition Brod became President of AOL Ventures, Local & Mapping, and Warren Webster became president of Patch.
On August 9, 2013, AOL announced it would be laying off staff at all levels. On an all-staff conference call, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong announced that the number of staffed Patch sites will be reduced from 900 to 600. Creative Director Abel Lenz was also publicly fired by Tim Armstrong at that time.
Patch sites contain news and human interest stories reported locally. In 2010, the company expected to be the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States. Each site contains a mixture of local and national advertising.
Patch Media has come under scrutiny from individuals and the media. Articles in the Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, Forbes and online bloggers point out apparent flaws in its business model. According to several sources that were published from 2010 to 2012, some of which quoted former employees, working conditions within the organization deteriorated and the company entered a period of consolidation. The sites are also facing increased competition from independent blogs.
Tim Armstrong told the Columbia Journalism Review in March 2012 that he still believed in the company. When Editor-in-Chief Brian Farnham resigned in April 2012, Farnham said "I've never worked for a company that has been as scrutinized, criticized, and coal-raked as this one ... You’d think we were creating toxic waste, instead of, you know, free useful information."