AOL Picks Up Going and Patch Media

Eyeing the local online advertising marketing, AOL on Thursday announced the acquisition of local media companies Patch Media and Going. Terms of the deals were not released, but each company reportedly sold for less than $10 million apiece.

Dubbed a "hyperlocal" news site, Patch creates technologies and operates Web sites to help local communities publish news and information. Going, meanwhile, allows users -- the majority of which might be described as urban "hipsters" -- to share information about local events.

The two companies will help build on AOL's existing local efforts like its MapQuest mapping site, said Tim Armstrong, the Time Warner unit's recently-appointed chief executive.

"Local remains one of the most disaggregated experiences on the Web today -- there's a lot of information out there but simply no way for consumers to find it quickly and easily," Armstrong said in a release. "Going forward, local will be a core area of focus and investment."

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Armstrong further outlined his strategy in a letter to employees on Thursday: "Our vision isn't just about optimizing what we have -- it's about overhauling how we approach this space, drawing on our legacy of connecting communities," he wrote.

Armstrong was an early investor in Patch, but he claims to have recused himself from the acquisition process, thus forgoing any profit from his investment.

The recession has hit the local online ad market particularly hard. Online spending by local U.S. advertisers -- which grew by 45% in 2008 to $12.7 billion -- is expected to see growth slow to 5.4% in 2009, according to media research firm Borrell Associates.

According to AOL, its network of local services reaches more than 54 million total unique visitors per month.

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