Patch hopes that all 903 of its hyperlocal news sites will be profitable by the end of 2013, and that many of them will have migrated to a less-newsy, more community-based platform, company president Warren Webster said on Tuesday evening.
He was interviewed by Forbes media reporter Jeff Bercovici at the end of the first day of Street Fight Summit, the hyperlocal conference.
“We went into 2012 having built this enormous organization,” Webster said, and “now we’ve built this machine; this machine has to work.” About 100 sites are profitable, mostly the oldest ones, he said, news that has been reported elsewhere. But Patch’s unique visitors are up 30 percent in the past year, he said, and “it does take time to win the hearts and minds not only of these communities but also the small-business owners.”
Patch, founded in 2007, has long gotten negative coverage, with critics alleging that its reporters are overworked and that, while its PR line emphasizes local news, internally the company prefers clickbait-style content. The criticism has continued with regard to Patch’s effort to turn a profit, Webster said, including disparaging coverage of the company’s decision to merge sites and cut freelance budgets.