On Friday afternoon, AOL president Tim Armstrong announced that Patch was restructuring and laying off some employees. (Bloomberg reports 40 people were let go.) CEO Jon Brod is returning to AOL Ventures and COO Steve Kalin is moving up to chief executive, Armstrong said.
The changes were discussed during an all-company conference call that started at 6 p.m. ET Friday (when most media reporters were already in bars or headed home).
I asked one of my Patch sources to brief Romenesko readers on the call. Here’s his report:
1. Jon Brod started to tell everyone he was “sleeping easy” about his transfer out of the CEO position. He seemed to catch himself as he said this (perhaps realizing how out of touch it would sound from an executive after layoffs) and awkwardly interjected “while, you know, you never sleep easy with lay-offs… I have been sleeping easy about my move” out of Patch. Note I am paraphrasing from memory so these aren’t exact quotes, but everyone on the call heard it and it was poorly received. Like, oh, phew, at least the CEO is okay.
2. They said, as they do every quarter, that we are going to begin “really emphasizing local content.” When someone asked how that would work, given the doubling of all of our workloads, they told us it would be through “localizing” what is essentially SEO-spam/advertiser-bait: articles like “What will be your next car?” or “What do you pay for lawn service?” “Where can I get a mammogram in PATCH TOWN?” They even added our readers were “greatly interested” in these kinds of articles. Not sure how they determined that, but we all doubt this very much./CONTINUES
3. Addressing concerns they are doubling local editor workloads, leaders countered that it wasn’t just one editor running two sites – instead, it is a “team model” that incorporates new roles, such as a community editor and field editor. One of them said this means that “three editors are working on one site,” and to keep that in mind as we move forward.
In actuality, the role of the community editor is to encourage readers to blog and field some emails, which takes maybe 5-10% of the responsibilities out of our doubled workload. It’s not a big help. Field editors will cover things like sports and can provide an extra article for a site every now and then, however, they are spread out over several sites, and in practice they produce about 1-2 extra articles for a site every month.
Not to malign the Patchers in these roles, as they are working hard too. However, the burden of the doubled workload overwhelmingly remains on the shoulders of the already well-overworked local editors.
I cannot think of a single local editor not planning to leave the company after these outrageous shifts in direction. The executive leadership is 100% out of touch with the realities on the ground at Patch. We’re very concerned.
Any Patch people care to add to or comment on this dispatch? Send me an email, please.