Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Morning Brief: NYT looks at Patch and hyperlocal news; even today, few reporters understand Apple's strategy

Well, they say bad press and better than no press at all. That would have to be the conclusion of executives at AOL following the article in the New York Times that looked at the company's effort to create a hyperlocal news empire called Patch.
Written by Verne G. Kopytoff, the article points to Patch's ability to "set up shop in nearly 800 towns", while also pointing out that traffic numbers remain extremely low. It's a pretty even handed look at the AOL venture that will cost the company upwards of $50 million. But the article lacks the nostalgia I would have expected from an article with a "San Francisco" byline. Veterans of the Internet boom will have vivid memories of the many companies whose motto could well have been "build it and they will come" -- or alternately, "build it, and we'll come up with a business plan for it later". That's the way I've always look at Patch.

There is no doubt that with the sad state of the newspaper industry there are plenty of journalists who will be willing to accept a much lower paying position with AOL in hopes that Patch will be a success -- who can blame them? But looking at the Patch sites launched so far hasn't anyone asked the rather obvious question "what's the end game?". Eight hundred local news sites might appear to be an accomplishment, but certainly finding somebody to pony up $50 million was the real achievement. Now, how about someone selling an ad?

The news that Steve Jobs was back on medical leave dominated the domestic news cycle yesterday. The articles written about this, though, tended to stress two points: oh my, the stock price may fall, and what about Apple's market share against Android?

If there is one thing I love about Apple, it is the knowledge that the company could care less about either item. Sure, quite a number of executives at the company are benefiting mightily from the ridiculously high price of the company's stock, but the corporate memory is long -- six years ago this company's stock sold for under $20, five years ago it was at $55, and two years ago it was under $100. It is now around $350.

And what about Android -- surely Google is going to eat Apple's lunch and the whole deck of cards will finally fall down, right? The WSJ seems to think so: Apple should be paranoid about Android, it writes this morning (actually, last night).

Yeah, and Apple really cares about market share. This is company which has built its Mac market share all the way up to nine percent -- whoopee. Neither Mac owners, nor Apple, care one bit about market share. As long as . . .

As long as both profit and quality are retain. That's the key. Make your profit numbers, and keep your customer's satisfied. Why is that so hard to understand?