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AOL’s Patch moving ahead with expansion in RI

November 11, 2010
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Patch, the local news initiative by AOL, is pursuing a big expansion of sites in Rhode Island. After starting with communities on Aquidneck Island, Patch is touting new sites for Barrington, East Providence, North Kingstown, Narragansett, and South Kingstown — with Bristol-Warren, Cranston, East Greenwich, Tiverton, Little Compton, and Woonsocket and possibly others on the way. (Ted Nesi previously reported on Patch’s expansion plans.)

While the ultimate success of Patch remains to be determined, the Rhode Island initiative is noteworthy for a few reasons. The Providence Journal did away a few years back with its once-vaunted network of bureaus across the state, but it still routinely covers local news in some of the Providence ring communities being targeted by Patch, particularly East Providence and Cranston. Meanwhile, the East Greenwich initiative consists of a merger with the independent local news site My02818.com, which launched last year as a novel micro-approach to capture readers and advertisers in one of the state’s most affluent suburbs.

Chuck Newton, publisher of My02818.com, writes to say that he’ll be taking on a job overseeing sites for Patch:

It was actually an easy transition: My02818 was organized and operated on largely the same model at patch.com (great minds think alike?), and we certainly shared the same vision. Virtually all of the My02818.com staff will move over to similar roles in the Patch organization; I move up to oversee about 24 sites in the neighborhood, and Bob Plain continues his role as local editor for East Greenwich. All of our other local freelancers and contributors will continue freelancing and contributing.

A “modest” launch event for Cranston Patch is planned for Cafe Bon Ami on Park Avenue in Cranston for 8:30 am on November 19. 

Reuters reported last month that AOL plans to put $50 million into developing 500 community news sites by year’s end, but that it could take several years to see returns, “if it ever does.”

“Patch is coming into a tough place where there is already some media and a lot of folks already have their channels where they get information,” said Kip Cassino, executive vice president of research at Borrell Associates, an online consulting firm that specializes in local advertising.

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