Hyperlocal, everyone’s favorite unproven concept, has been back in the news this week. It started a couple of weeks ago. BackFence Founder Mark Potts announced that he has formed a high-profile team and built ad technology to drive network and local revenues for up to “2,000 hyperlocal sites” — an interesting and large number. Potts said most of them are “suburban.”
This week, MSNBC.com announced that it was buying EveryBlock, a block-by-block data gathering service. Then came an announcement from The Washington Post today that it was shutting down its Loudon Extra edition, which was launched with hyperlocal impresario Rob Curley, but never really found its grounding.
Today, AOL’s new hyperlocal acquisition, Patch.com, announced that it is expanding in the New York Tri-State Area, adding two new communities to its four existing sites — Summit, New Jersey, and Darien, Connecticut. Two more sites are planned.
The company has also hired a “regional publisher” — Sol Colontonio, who had previously been Gannett’s director of digital ad sales. AOL purchased Patch, a Tim Armstrong project, in June for “under $10 million.”
As with other Patch sites, the new sites have a self-serve ad system, complemented by professional sales. They also have a local editor that is specifically assigned to the community. They will manage a team of contributors that will provide everything from reports on high school sports and city government to coverage of events and interviews with members of the community.
Patch also announced two community initiatives. The first is a site that helps local charities and willing volunteers find each other. The second is “Give 5,” which dedicates 5 percent of Patch’s ad inventory as free advertising space for local charitable organizations. At the same time, Patch’s staff annually donates “five full paid days of its own time” to volunteer in Patch communities. (Does that mean Patch has paid for the time?)