Briar Patch - Photo credit

Briar Patch – Photo credit

Hyper-local news site Patch, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s brain child, is firing 1,100 people. It’s no secret that Patch has been a sinking ship for some time now but when your founder is the CEO of AOL and you have a cookie jar of cash to keep dumping into a money pit you get to stick around a little longer than most.

They’ve decided to stir things up a bit by closing down hundreds of local sites, laying off nearly half of their staff and shitcanning the CEO (Steve Kalin) and Chief Content officer (Rachel Fedderson). Oh yeah, and Kalin’s been the CEO for two months. Hell hath no fury like an Armstrong scorned.

The firings come almost exactly a week after Armstrong flipped out on a Patch conference call that had all of the optimism of a funeral…and that was before the snap firing took place. On the call Armstrong sees (or at least thinks he sees) someone about to take a picture, presumably of him, fires him on the spot and tells him to leave. There’s about five seconds of silence and Armstrong just starts up again. The funniest part is that it took place while Armstrong was trying, unconvincingly, to act like the recent media leaks at the company didn’t bother him in the slightest.

Apparently that was the same conference call where “Armstrong confirmed that there would be “hundreds” of layoffs coming. Yep, eleven hundreds of people laid off.

Listen to Tim Armstrong fire a Patch employee on a conference call with over 1,000 people

Morale must be just tremendous over there right now. If you listen closely you can hear the other half of the staff updating their resumes.

Armstrong’s vision behind Patch was to take news to the next level by giving every small town their own “patch” and breaking down cities into neighborhoods and giving each one of them a “patch”. The problem with “hyper-local” news is that it’s usually pretty fucking boring. When was the last time you heard about Patch breaking a news story? “Today in Paragon Aunt Lily Runs Out of Yarn”.

I live in Brooklyn, a city with 2.5 million people and about a hundred different neighborhoods and, as far as I could tell, there were exactly two “patches” covering two neighborhoods. And they aren’t even very good neighborhoods.

For a company that hoped to be the friendly-next-door-neighbor news site Patch has all of the warmness of Nurse Ratchet. You can see Armtstrong’s influence all over the site and it’s terrible. If you’re not familiar with Armstrong’s idea of “best practices”, what he calls the AOL Way, you should definitely read up on it.

Check out their jobs page:

The Patch team is made up of people who share a passion for local news, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an enthusiasm for online media. Patchers (as we like to call ourselves) cover a broad range of backgrounds and roles, from locally-based professional journalists and advertising sales managers, to experienced software engineers, designers and business leaders, working in our headquarters. We’re committed to our mission of providing comprehensive, trustworthy and local online news and information—reinventing community journalism with each new site we launch.

Patch is seeking bright, new talent in hundreds of locations across the country. If you’re looking to join one of the fastest growing and exciting companies on the Web, with fun, innovative and collaborative colleagues, then we want to hear from you!

Patches! Don’t you get it? HAHA. I’d be willing to bet like $10 that Armstrong personally wrote that intro. It’s just awful.

You know what would be exciting though? A hyper-local porn site. Let’s hope that Patch makes the same transition that hundreds of B-list Hollywood actresses have made over the years as their careers have gone down in flames.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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