Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

AOL Starts Patch Cuts, and Up to 500 People May Lose Their Jobs

tim_armstrong_aolAOL has begun making mass layoffs at its Patch unit.

By the time the cuts are over, AOL could end up reducing the local news network’s 1,000-worker labor force by half, according to people familiar with the plans.

Sources said AOL will immediately let go of about 350 Patch employees. Up to 150 more will be told their jobs are in limbo while AOL tries to find other media companies to operate some underperforming Patch sites. If it can’t find partners, those employees will also be out of work.

AOL plans on keeping about 540 of its 900 Patch sites operational; the company thinks those sites generate about 90 percent of its traffic. The remainder will either be shuttered, “consolidated” or handed off to partners.

CEO Tim Armstrong, who founded Patch in 2007 while he was running sales at Google, has promised that the unit will be profitable by the end of the year.

Armstrong informed Patch employees about some of the company’s plans on a conference call this morning. Here’s AOL public statement on the cuts:

“Patch, as previously announced, is taking steps to move to profitability. Patch’s strategy will be to focus resources against core sites and partner in sites that need additional resources. Additionally, there are sites that we will be consolidating or closing.

Patch has become an important brand across many towns in America. The Patch team across the country has served and will continue to serve communities with journalism and technology platforms. Unfortunately, with these changes we are announcing today, we will be reducing a substantial number of Patch positions. The people leaving Patch have played a significant role in making Patch an integral part of the communities it serves — and we thank them for their hard work and passion for Patch.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald