Commentary

Patch's Newsletter Platform Shows Promise For Local Journalism

Local news publisher Patch has created new publishing tools for journalists. It's another sign of how the publishing industry continues to experiment with ways to monetize journalism as Google, Facebook and Amazon expand their share of the digital advertising market.

Called Patch Labs, the platform gives journalists the tools to set up their own website and email newsletter to cover local news, Axios reported. Journalists and newsrooms can apply to get on the platform, then must adhere to a code of ethics to avoid getting kicked off.

Patch collects a 3% to 10% cut of revenue from sponsorships, memberships and listings on community calendars, similar to the business model for Patch. The company has been profitable for the past several years, boasting a network of more than 1,200 hyper-local news sites.
Patch Labs' website shows examples publications using its platform, such as The Saline Post and The Sun-Times News, both in Michigan, and Warren Country Online News in Ohio. The publications provide a local angle on hot topics, such as coronavirus infections, along with a mix of news about local events, crime, obituaries, garbage collection and school board meetings, among other items.
The development of Patch Labs comes as the growth of "news deserts" in the U.S. leaves thousands of communities without a source of independent news, often more meaningful than what happens on a national or global level. Amid the loss of readers and declining advertising revenue, many community publications have disappeared in the past 20 years.
While Patch Labs is in its early stages, its growth would indicate that more journalists are seeking ways to self-publish on monetization platforms, such as Substack and Patreon. This year, journalists including Andrew Sullivan, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald and Anne Helen Petersen started publishing their own email newsletters on Substack, which helps writers promote their work and handle back-end functions, like managing subscriber lists and processing payments.
Every journalist should develop a business plan to self-publish — it can be a humbling experience in evaluating the market value of news, information, analysis and opinion. However, learning to think like a freelancer is a healthy exercise for any journalist amid the relentless newsroom job cuts.

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