Reporters nationwide for the hyperlocal AOL-owned online news network Patch.com, which has several reporters and editors throughout South Carolina, don’t know if they’ll still have jobs in the coming week.
Some employees believed they had until this morning to learn whether they’d get a death sentence or a reprieve. The layoffs have since been delayed. The news that up to 500 Patchers could lose their jobs originally came during a Wednesday conference call. (In that call, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong reportedly fired someone on the spot for taking a photo.)
As Jim Romenesko reports, some entire states could be Patch-less.
How the company decides which networks get the axe appears to be three-pronged.
Columbia Journalism Review reports:
“We have segmented all the Patches into three buckets,” Armstrong said, according to the call transcript. “First bucket is established and successful Patches, the second bucket is emerging Patches that have all the signs and signals of being successful, and the third bucket is a set of Patches that may have traffic or revenue traction, but don’t have both.” He went on to say, in business jargon, that AOL planned to drop the bottom third of sites.
But if the criteria for keeping the sites around is revenue driven, South Carolina’s network might have reason to worry, if one of Romenesko’s sources is correct.
“A former Patch person who was ‘in the know’ shares this information: ‘[Patches in] CA, WA, FL, GA, NC and SC were bleeding blood with profits in those areas at -165%. [Yes, that’s minus]'” Romenesko reported.
Here in the Lowcountry, Patch has had something of an ephemeral presence, but has scored some hits. In City Paper’s 2013 Best of Charleston Awards the paper offered a critics pick to the Patch team for having the best new media coverage.
“As more and more contenders entered the District 1 Congressional race for Tim Scott’s seat, reporters started scratching their heads and wondering, ‘How are we supposed to cover a 21-person race?,’” we wrote. “The team at Patch has done an admirable job keeping up, from profiles of candidates to a simple page with all of the candidates’ campaign websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter profiles. They’re helping readers sift through what’s turned out to be a crowded contest.”
Patch editor Shawn Drury in particular has been a major player on the South Carolina political scene in the past year and is currently working on a book about the 1st District race, which featured Mark Sanford and Stephen Colbert’s sister. He moderated the only debate in that race. Drury declined to comment on the news.