My first thought is sincere best wishes and empathy for the hundreds of Patch employees losing their jobs (and those who earlier lost their jobs), including some friends.
Patch hired a lot of good journalists and did an excellent job covering a lot of communities (including the area where I live and many communities covered by my Digital First Media colleagues). We just hired Don Wyatt, a Patch editor, as our vice president for news in Michigan. Whenever journalists lose jobs, I hope for better opportunities around the next corner.
I won’t pretend that I ever studied Patch closely. When it launched, I was focused intensely on the launch of another much-hyped local news product, TBD. When a member of our TBD Community Network expressed concern about competition from Patch, I blogged about the possibility of collaborating with competitors, but otherwise I haven’t had much to say about it.
From TBD I moved to DFM (then the Journal Register Co.), where I had a similar intense focus on my duties on this job. So Patch has always been on the edge of my consciousness, but never a topic of concentration.
Granting that I didn’t study it closely, it always appeared to me that Patch was more innovative and experimental in trying to develop a new approach to local news coverage than it was to developing a new approach to local commerce.
I thought Patch had the potential to develop and succeed at moving beyond advertising into more meaningful revenue sources. I thought its national scale and digital roots gave it potential to develop some of the revenue sources I have encouraged news organizations to explore, such as databases, local search, direct sales and commissioned obituaries and other life stories.
If Patch tried any such innovative approaches at generating revenue, I never became aware of them. And they certainly never succeeded in building a sustainable business.
I welcome a guest post from anyone who has watched Patch closely or who worked for Patch. Maybe you can answer better than me: Why didn’t Patch succeed?