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09.06.2012

Patch-like hyperlocal network

In the United States, there are any number of individual hyperlocal sites that are proving sustainable — Berkeleyside, West Seattle Blog, and the like. What’s proved more elusive is a way to take those individual successes and systemize them — to make them replicable across a larger scale. The best known effort to do so, AOL’s Patch, has had a rough go thus far: An activist shareholder estimatesthat in 2011, Patch’s 800-plus sites generated just $13 million in revenue against $160 million in expenses, and AOL is cutting costs.

But across the Atlantic, there’s a more optimistic example. The Netherlands’ Dichtbij — “close to me” in Dutch — is a hyperlocal news platform that’s generating real revenue despite operating on a much smaller scale. Across its 80 sites, Dichtbij is on pace for revenue of €10 million (about $12.5 million) in 2012, according to Het Financieele Dagblad, the Netherlands’ leading financial newspaper. And its founder, Bart Brouwers, says he expects the two-year-old operation will be profitable by year’s end. “The income is higher every week,” he said.

Nieman Journalism Lab

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