Fresh off the news this morning that AOL had acquired hyperlocal aggregator Outside.in for $10 million, representatives from both companies appeared this morning on a panel at Borrell Associates’ Local Online Advertising Conference at the Grand Hyatt to talk about the deal as well as the current gold rush taking place in hyperlocal media.
Mark Josephson, Outside.in’s CEO, said he was “thrilled” to be joining AOL, which will use his technology to beef up aggregation of information around the content produced for its Patch network of hyperlocal sites. He said that Outside.in had gone out of its way to build incredibly powerful tools for local journalists, and to serve consumers by organizing local media sources within tools and dashboards. Josephson said that he had envisioned a partnership with Patch since he heard of the company’s inception.
Patch media president Warren Webster also said he was “extremely exicted” about the deal, saying that pairing Patch’s local professional journalism and efficiency of scale with
Outside.in’s robust technology would make Patch “more robust.” He also said that he and Josephson had spoken of such a pairing in the past, and that both had thought that, “Outside.in and Patch together could do exponentially more than either of them could do independently.”
The panelists, along with Examiner.com’s Rick Blair and moderator Terri Bennett, traded insights about the current state of hyperlocal media. Blair said “local content just cannot be a technology play. You have to have human beings in the mix and you have to have technology people in the mix as well.”
Josephson noted that one way of judging Patch’s success was that it was so “intensely local” that sometimes people in communities that it serves don’t know that there are Patch sites all around the country — they think they are unique to their area. He said that the site fills a void for consumers and advertisers who aren’t being served at the neighborhood level.
According to Webster, Patch had 4 million unique visitors in January, and had a 37% growth rate month-over-month. He noted that the network of sites currently produces a piece of content every 15 seconds. Webster also introduced a new ad product that Patch is rolling out called “Devil Ads,” which integrates interactive and multimedia functions (like video and mapping) into the ad units that run on the Patch network.
Ultimately, said Webster, Patch’s strategy in local is all about driving people to retail. He thinks that local sites will ultimately be supported less by advertising than by sponsorships and local businesses using the site as a platform to offer deals.
David Hirschman is covering LOAC 2011 for mediabistro.com and is the author of this post.