6 Hyperlocal Failures That Foreshadowed AOL Patch’s Woes

Layoffs latest in a six-year trend of bad news

The digital hyperlocal news model took yet another hit today with AOL Patch laying off some 500 employees, nearly half of the business unit's workforce. But it's not exactly shocking when looking at recent years of one hyperlocal venture after another falling by the wayside.

Patch was founded by Tim Armstrong in 2007 before he purchased the company as AOL CEO two years later. The local news platform, which relies on editorial staffers around the country, still has around 600 people in place and maintains hope that it will not go the way of AOL's Seed, a paying open content submission platform that Armstrong & Co. killed off last year.

But AOL's hardly alone in its hyperlocal struggles. Here are six examples of the news model's struggles—and in most cases, downright failures.

1. Backfence

Hyperlocal pioneer Backfence encompassed 13 community sites from the Washington D.C. to Chicago to California and raised $3 million in funding. Yet, it shut down in 2007 after only three years in existence. 

2. EveryBlock

EveryBlock, launched in 2007, pulled the plug in February after a tumultuous final four years when it was owned first by MSNBC.com and then NBC. Vivian Schiller, NBC News chief digital officer, told the Chicago Tribune that EveryBlock's financial losses "were considerable," adding that hyperlocal "is a very tough business."

3. VillageSoup

Founded in 1996, Village Soup aimed to revolutionize New England local news by bringing readers and advertisers in Maine online. It worked with readers, but small businesses didn't take. So a decade ago, the firm began trying to augment revenues with a few community print weeklies. Last year, the entire company folded. 

4. Daily Voice

The Daily Voice didn't find the business of upper New England online news any easier. While it is still operating in Connecticut and New York State, the Web publisher ceased 11 news sites in Massachusetts in March.

5. TBD.com

TBD.com was a hit with Washington, D.C.-based readers who craved hyperlocal news back when it debuted in 2010. But the Allbritton Communications property didn't last long, and the URL now redirects viewers to the parent company's ABC affiliate in the Capital City.

6. LoudounExtra.com

Like New England, the Beltway area hasn't been kind to hyperlocal launches. In July 2007, the Washington Post debuted LoudounExtra.com, pairing the veritable news juggernaut with a team of techies to create a virtual town square for well-to-do Loudoun County, Virginia. The pre-Bezos Post had to shut it down only two years later.