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The state of hyperlocal

Community puzzleAt one point, the news industry regarded hyperlocal news sites as the future of local news. Since then, we have watched the rise of the likes of Patch.com and The Daily Voice, as well as their fall from the expectation of hyperlocal greatness.

Only a year ago The Daily Voice, a network of sites that once resided in three states, closed all 11 of its Massachusetts locations. Although the Daily Voice website shows that the outlet still operates 41 websites in Connecticut and New York, the company filed Chapter 11 only two months after closing its Massachusetts sites.

Patch.com had a rough year as well, laying off roughly 450 employees and leaving hundreds of sites unmanned. In January, AOL entered into a joint venture giving majority ownership of Patch to Hale Global, a New York investment firm. While the previous model decidedly did not work, StreetFightMag.com recently interviewed Hale Global CEO Charles Hale, who noted they will test out various models on the 900 sites. This includes sharing local revenue with Patch editors and evaluating their findings before applying a cookie cutter to the entire network.

But not all hyperlocal sites have been plagued by these tribulations. In Ridgefield, Conn., Kerry Anne Ducey launched a local blog in 2009 that has since expanded to a network called HamletHub. The network now consists of 30 community websites, and that number will soon grow to 45, reported StreetFightMag.com. In a Q&A with the site, Ducey explained how she plans to avoid the issues Patch and other hyperlocal networks have fallen into: “Our model is different, and maybe because we are a much, much smaller company than AOL, and really a ‘grassroots’ story, our expenses are a lot less, and we are able to pivot a lot faster. When we find a good idea on how we can help a community, we act on it, and get it implemented very quickly.”

Meanwhile, Patch castoffs have been finding other hyperlocal sites to sate their love of community journalism, reported the American Journalism Review. Former Patch local editor Karen Goff joined ARLnow.com, a hyperlocal site in Arlington, Va., and launched a branch called RestonNow.com in October. A former senior regional editor for Patch, Mike Dinan, launched NewCanaanite.com several days after being laid off in January, reported the Review.

Just like their counterparts in traditional media, hyperlocal news site publishers have to experiment to find the right working fit. It remains to be seen what will thrive and what will fail to survive.

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