Whenever one of our editors launches a Patch (a ritual we've repeated some 800 times), they start hearing from residents of their community. Most are enthusiastic about this new online source of news and information dedicated to their little slice of the American pie. But a few are skeptical, and the skeptics often say something to the editor along the lines of, "Well, I just hope you're not a blog."
It was probably inevitable that "blog" would become a four-letter word. Anything that is released upon the world at the rate of 50,000 per day -- other than free Lady Gaga tickets -- is liable to get a bad name. In fact, the only thing that might have a worse name online these days is the word "aggregation."So of course we're incredibly proud to announce that today on all our Patches, in addition to the professionally produced objective journalism on which we built our brand, you can now find both blogs and aggregation!
Admit it, you just shuddered a bit. But here's the thing: blogs don't kill people, destroy the environment, or bring down the republic as we know it....And neither does aggregation. Bad varieties of both are what can make for a prickly, hivey sensation when you surf the Interwebs. But both are simply tools, and incredibly powerful tools at that. And both tools, wielded smartly, are perfect for building what we care most about at Patch: community.
Patch blogs are going to mean the following: a platform for free expression made available to anyone who can prove to our local editors they have something meaningful, witty, or creative to say while also being relevant locally. Patch bloggers might be the First Selectman, a rabbi, a high school junior, or moms and dads sharing parenting insights. They won't be conspiracy theorists, hate-speech mongers, or long-form pig-latin balladeers. And taken together, what they'll articulate is how that community seems to see the world.
And our aggregation? No, it's not umpteen RSS feeds stupidly hemorrhaging links onto a homepage. Aggregation for us means our local editor handpicking the community blogs and other sources that an incredibly sophisticated in-house technology then vets -- post by post -- for content that is either about or from the community. As an example, while a New York Times blog might be a selected source for, say, the editor of our Patch in Maplewood, NJ, nothing gets picked up from the Gray Lady unless it's clearly about Maplewood. (And not the Maplewood in Minnesota -- it knows the difference.)
We've dubbed this one-two punch "Local Voices," and it's a perfect reflection of our overall strategy of painstakingly, purposefully and repeatedly building on our successes to create the local information solution we always envisioned.
Local Voices, in fact, has great DNA. Its beating heart -- the blog program -- is patterned on the proven model innovated by The Huffington Post, which of course shares a roof with us at AOL. The aggregation tool was built and battle-tested by Outside.In, which Patch recently acquired. It's a big, 2.0 sort of moment for us, and an incredible amount of hard work has gone into it.
So if you live in a Patch town, and want to set up your soapbox on our platform, drop your local editor a line. But if you're still traumatized by your many encounters with "What I Ate For Breakfast" blogs and aren't quite ready to trust the form again, that's okay -- stick to the safety of our professionally reported content until you're ready to give it another go.
By the way, if you want to see how our brilliant editors have been promoting the joys of blogging locally, this video says a thousand words. And it only seems appropriate to give Arianna Huffington herself the last word on our new blogging future -- in a blog post on a Patch, of course.