A Message to Chicago-Area Patch Users
Dear Patch Readers, Bloggers 
and Contributors,

Much has changed in the last year at Patch, and many users and fans of our sites have been asking us questions since Patch was sold in January 2014. More questions have arisen as we've taken the first steps to introduce our new website to the public. 

We're working to recast Patch in accord with its founding vision — to be a place where people come together to share stories, engage with neighbors, learn about their towns and discuss issues of the day with other Patchers. We understand there are many questions, even a few hurt feelings, and a sense in some communities we've broken a bond by pulling back valued coverage in some places.

Patch today is very much a work-in-progress for a small group of hard-working journalists, engineers and sales-and-marketing pros rebuilding the website and the company. We ask for your patience during this journey — and your feedback, too

Here are answers to your most-asked questions.

What happened to our editor?

Many of you wonder why your local Patch no longer resembles the news source you knew, even loved, the last few years. On Jan. 29, Patch spun out of Aol as an independent venture now owned by Hale Global, with Aol as a minority stakeholder. Prior to the sale, Aol laid off hundreds of employees. We miss our colleagues, too. Aol invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Patch, employing more than 1,000 staffers nationwide, but its business model did not sustain that operation. A small team — about 125 people — became part of the new company, and in February 2014 we went to work rebuilding Patch, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

What's with all of these changes?

On July 25, 2014, we took the first step to get off of Aol's platform and start walking on our own. We're working diligently to implement improvements on an ongoing basis. We've always envisioned Patch as an online town square where everyone can participate freely in the exchange of local news, information and ideas. To accomplish that, we needed to create a new website to make that experience easier and more enjoyable for you. The former website did not meet our needs or your needs in critical ways. We know this because many of you told us so throughout 2013. And you were right!

Why haven't I been able to sign in and post blogs or events lately?

Lately, we've seen a surge in spam accounts and posts. We needed to restrict access to the "Contribute to Patch" tool to build more safeguards into the system and fine tune the tools that allow editors to work with user contributions. Things have been bumpy, we know. User contributions are a very important part of the Patch community experience. Our goal is to make it easier for local voices to be heard on Patch. Ultimately, we think you'll like what you see when it's ready and working properly.

What happened to Classifieds, Boards and Events?

We're sorry we had to suspend these features for a while. We created a user-focused space called the Bulletin Board. We are working on a new events calendar and other user-centric features.

Why can't I comment on Patch the way I did before?

We want Patch to be a place for active, interesting, productive conversations and the sharing of ideas. Acting on feedback from Patch users, we recently adopted a new commenting system in an attempt to improve civility and raise the level of discourse. You can learn how to use the new commenting system, Disqus, in this letter to our users. » How to Sign In and Use Disqus to Comment on Patch

How do I submit information?

On the bottom of your home page, you'll see several icons, including a "letter" icon. Click this icon and you will be able to email your local Patch to send news tips, press releases or questions. The other icons allow you to sign up for free email news alerts and a daily newsletter, join our local Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Why has Patch avoided talking about the changes?

You will find discussion of changes at Patch on our sites. Some of our bloggers have taken the company to task and asked hard questions. We can't hide from the fact many talented people no longer run local Patches. Nor would we try. We owe those people a great deal. They invested much time and toil in building your Patch. We hope some of them will partner with us when the time is right. By and large, however, you'll see frank exchanges about Patch on Patch — like this one in Elmhurst, this one in Evanston, and this one in Plymouth, MI. We will do a better job of sharing information about important changes to our website.  

Why do I see regional and national stories? I thought you were just local.

Patch users overwhelmingly tell us they want local news and info to be front and center and dominate their local Patch. And we're committed to achieving that. But our readership statistics tell us there is interest in regional articles, as well as some interest in compelling blogs and stories from elsewhere in our national network. Patch always has shared higher profile news or general interest features regionally and nationally. In some regions, we did this more than in others. Our goal is to build into our website a proper place for these posts so everybody can easily find the news, information and conversations they want to engage in. We're still working on how best to do that, and you'll see modifications and improvements to the website on a regular basis.

Parting thoughts

Those of you who run local shops, restaurants and other businesses understand what it takes to build something from the ground up. There are ups and downs along the way. Over the long haul, we are wholly committed to all things local, to supporting local businesses and to building a financially sustainable enterprise that helps communities. In May 2014, the New York Times profiled Patch and noted that the company had turned a corner. We are now operating in the black and have been for much of the year.

We're working night and day to build a better website with easy-to-use tools for readers, contributors and advertisers.  Those of you who've stuck by us during the last year — we thank you. Not only have you bolstered our spirits, you've been clear with us about Patch means to you and what you want it to be.

You want Patch to get better, and so do we.


Dennis Robaugh

Chicago Patch Network

Patcher since April 2010