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Redesigns are going on at has been laying low on new developments at its more than 900 sites, but now the secret is out. A redesign has been implemented at five of the group’s Long Island, N.Y., sites that is decidedly more social.

Visiting Patch’s Bellmore, Garden City, Levittown, Long Beach and Merrick sites may be something of a different experience. Prominently displayed to the left of the page is the green talk bubble that says “Post.” Here, users click the button and are taken to a page where they can share news, videos and pictures, or submit an article. The sites now also feature newsfeeds with content separated into groups, making them a fully interactive, social experience.

In a recent inVocus article, we reported local editor Donna Evans announced California’s La Cañada Flintridge Patch would be making a big change: “As for La Cañada Patch, we really hope community members will upload to the site events and announcements of import to residents. The site will no longer be editor-run, but, rather, a cooperative site with local blogs, shared content from other Patches and occasional freelance pieces.”

At the time, Patch vice president of communications Janine Iamunno (who recently vacated her spot) declined to directly comment on Evans’ statement except to say that there were no plans to have any sites that “aren’t editor-run.” A similar statement was reported by Media Bistro (MB) regarding the redesign at the Long Island sites. Patch executives told MB the local editor role would not be changing, and also would not be responsible for moderating user-created content.

Evans’ allusion to a “cooperative site” sounds comparable to the description of Patch’s new redesign rollout. But when questioned on whether there was any relation between the two, the Patch communications department failed to respond. However, StreetFight reported the redesign is slated to be pushed out to 50 sites by the end of the year, while the remaining 800-plus sites are set for the end of Q1 2013. So either way, it will be redesigned.

Despite site consolidations, Street Fight columnist Tom Grubisich recently predicted in an interview with inVocus that Patch would probably evolve editorially much faster with the hire of chief content officer Rachel Fishman Feddersen. Meanwhile, Forbes reported that latest comScore figures show Patch has tripled its traffic in the last 18 months, although the growth rate has flattened. However, Grubisich noted Starboard Investments forecasted that even if Patch sold 80 percent of ad slots to local advertisers, it would still lose $20 to $60 million yearly.

But with only one local editor a site to pay, the new interactive rollout and a blogger network of 28,000, there should be no shortage of free content.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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