Patch Breaks Traffic Records, Boosts Sales Team
From: Richard Horgan - Adweek

August 24, 2017

Patch recently added sites serving Charlotte, Miami and Birmingham, Alabama. A Denver Patch is also set to launch Sept. 6.

While the size of these cities is larger than the typical community targeted by the original AOL-era version of the company, a signature element remains. Veteran journalists are at the helm. For Charlotte, it is Kimberly Johnson; in Miami, Patch is relying on Paul Scicchitano; and in Birmingham, Michael Seale.

In Denver, where local hub Denverite was acquired this spring by Spirited Media, the journalist in charge will be former Gannett daily newspaper reporter Jean Lotus. A native of Boulder, she worked for the chain's Journal and Courier in Lafayette, Ind.. More recently, she had been based in the Chicago area, where she wrote for the Tribune and also operated her own independent news site.

"When we launch in new territories now, we are using a hub and spoke model," Patch CEO Warren St. John tells Fishbowl, "with a metro Patch like Birmingham and five to seven neighborhood and-or suburban Patches, surrounding the metro. Then we add resources as we build audience. We've done that in Austin, Portland, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Nashville, Cleveland, Seattle, Miami and now Birmingham and Denver. We've also opened Manhattan Patches, led by former DNAinfo veteran Adam Nichols."

On Monday Aug. 21, the Patch network exceeded 4 million daily page views for the first time. This came on the heels of some other robust traffic numbers. In July, the network topped 25 million unique visitors for the first time and is on pace to pass 26 million in August.

Matthew Schulte - LinkedIn

With all this growing momentum, it was time for the company to pursue sales in a bigger way. For that purpose, they hired Matthew Schulte as senior vice president of sales. From 2008 to November of 2016, Schulte was executive director of digital sales at Wenner Media. Schulte started at the end of July and quickly set about hiring a programmatic sales account executive.

Programmatic ad sales currently account for about 40% of Patch revenue. Working closely with Schulte and the new hire on that front is vice president of programmatic Mike Foley, who joined the company in March. Foley worked previously with the Daily Dot, AP and The New York Times.

"The sales story here is interesting," says St. John. "We essentially wound down agency-direct two years ago to give ourselves time to rebuild our audience and brand. We've more than tripled the audience and more than doubled our newsroom, and plowed all of our profits right back into developers and reporters. So we think we're there now for agencies and we're very excited about Matthew."

Two more full-time employees have joined the team this week. Anthony Faulise is Patch's new vice president of product, while Lauren Ramsby has come on board as director of news partnerships. Ramsby was formerly the managing editor of the New York Observer and managing editor of the New York Post. She will oversee Patch's contributor network as well as help grow the company's partnerships with journalism schools.

"Our audience is two-thirds women," St. John notes, "and high Household Income largely because of our suburban audience. We're in 90 of the top 100 U.S. zip codes for wealth. That's helped our programmatic revenue a bit. Also, we drove more than $1 million in sales to Amazon around Prime Day with our commerce content."

Integrated advertising partners for Patch include, Amtrak, Blue Apron, Coldwell Banker and Home Advisor.There's also a burgeoning branded content arm, headed by VP of content Elizabeth Lashway, formerly with Nickelodeon and Martha Stewart Living.

All told, there are currently 147 full-time employees at Patch, along with several dozen freelancers and contractors. The total number of network sites at press time is around 1100. Another way to frame this hyperlocal phoenix is the following: a total of 32 full-time reporters have been so far hired in 2017.