In another example of Patch taking the “local” out of hyperlocal, CEO Bud Rosenthal laid out the company’s plans to operate unstaffed websites in its lowest performing areas, or as Rosenthal affectionately calls them, DMAs. In a memo obtained by both Poynter and Romenesko this week, Rosenthal separates sites into three categories, described in classic Patch corporate-speak:
1. Staffed: Our very best towns with the highest traffic and revenue in the Top 14 DMAs, which we have also called Core & Near Core (Top 14 DMAs are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington D.C.)
2. Lightly Staffed: Towns with lower traffic and/or revenue in the Top 14 DMAs, which we have also called Open & Peripheral
3. Unstaffed: All towns in the remaining 17 DMAs
As previously discussed, on October 7th, we closed 5 towns within the bottom 17 DMAs (Fort Stewart, Maryland Heights, North Charleston, Northeast Columbia, Webster Groves). This was done to help us learn how to optimize our closing procedures for Unstaffed towns.
Leaving aside the not-insignificant issue of running a so called hyperlocal website without any staff, let’s stop here and ask: Who talks like that?
These are the straight-shooters who came up with the phrase “go forward team” to describe the staffers who were lucky enough to not get laid off this summer. And yet, for some unfathomable reason, the inventors of the Go Forward Team are now resigned to optimizing their closing procedures in the bottom DMA of Webster Groves, Mo. because their local news website didn’t connect with readers or advertisers.
It would be funny except for the fact that the local editors of these sites are real people who work their asses off to serve communities which are blithely written off as underperforming DMAs by their bosses in New York.
How is that hyperlocal?
Let them write obituaries for the alt-weekly industry. We know local, and that still means something. But this, whatever it is, isn’t hyperlocal. Readers aren’t stupid. And when you start talking about them in these terms, you’ve already lost.