Framingham Online News

AOL Attempts Comeback as "Patch"

Filed under: Business,Technology by Randy Harris at 4:12 pm on November 11, 2010
Framingham Patch

Why is ''Patch'' trying to get people to believe they are a local website and hiding the fact that they are AOL ?

FRAMINGHAM, MA - AOL, the online service that so many people loved to hate, is rearing its ugly head again.

AOL, a company whose corporate ethics are virtually non-existent has been the object of thousands of consumer, employee and investor complaints and lawsuits due to; unfair consumer practices, consumer privacy violations, unfair labor practices and securities law violations.

The company was been the target of (and lost) one of the largest class action lawsuits in history.

One class action lawsuit should be of particular interest to anyone considering "volunteering", "contributing", or responding to offers for paid work at AOL's Patch. That lawsuit had to do with thousands of people who were effectively unpaid or underpaid "employees" of AOL -- although the company called them "community leaders" and denied they worked for AOL.

We've created a spoof / satire version of Framingham Patch which contains details of many of the lawsuits.  Check the pages often -- we will be adding to the site as new horror stories about AOL and Patch develop.

The Patch operation is being rolled out to appear "hyper local" -- they place text ads referring to themselves as "local websites" -- and the AOL name does not appear anywhere.

In each target community, AOL/Patch first hires a "local editor". The editor then runs ads to "hire" writers, photographers and other content producers -- although "hire" is not exactly the right word.

AOL/Patch will only pay writers "per assignment", as freelance 1099 contractors.  There are no real "jobs" being created -- Patch is just looking for enough cheap content to seed the sites, and then expects to generate free content from locals who they encourage to "volunteer" and "contribute" -- never telling writers they will be disposed of as soon as Patch is up and running.

Writers and photographers considering working for Patch should search the internet for stories about these jobs.  To Patch, photographers are really just pre-sales lead generators. You will be assigned to photograph local businesses, then upload the photos to Patch where they will be sorted and sales people will try to get those businesses to advertise.  While the entire operation is being promoted as "local" -- what is never said is that the majority of the revenue will be taken out of the local economy and sent to AOL's corporate headquarters.

Welcome to Framingham Patch!


  1. I’ve been a freelance writer for many years and have always been paid by the story and sent a 1099 so I don’t see the problem with that. Really this story reflects very poorly on framington.com — rather than bash Patch you should concentrate on this site. You sound like a selfish baby who doesn’t want up share. If Patch is so bad, it won’t affect you. If it’s not, it deserves to succeed.

    Comment by Beth — November 11, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  2. Framingham, not framington. Duh.

    Comment by Beth — November 11, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

  3. Your slip-of-the-keyboard tells me you are not “local” to Framingham — nobody that has any connection to the town would ever make that mistake. So, Beth, I have to ask: What is you connection to AOL’s money?

    (And what does “a selfish baby who doesn’t want up share” mean? — you said you’re a writer, right?)…

    As to your comment that Patch [may] deserve to succeed: Did Home Depot “deserve to succeed”? As I remember it, Home Depot came to town, sold the same products as everyone else and a bigger variety than any; paint store, plumbing or electrical supply, wall paper store, kitchen cabinet shop, and many other building trade suppliers. Home Depot paid top dollar to recruit away managers and other skilled workers from all those small businesses — big surprise — it was all to drive the small hardware and building trade suppliers out of business, (I’ll spare you the list of local lumber yards, paint stores, hardware stores, etc they killed). Bigger surprise: once all the small (and mostly family owned) stores were gone Home Depot cut payroll, raised prices, and started stocking more and more imported crap.

    AOL uses the same types of predatory marketing and total disrespect for consumers, employees and investors, (if you read some of the lawsuit material at http://patch.framingham.com/ you’d understand)…

    As “Patch”, AOL came out of the gate lying about who they are and what their mission is. To me at least, that makes everything else suspect — but, what do I know?…

    Here’s an article I wrote in 1996 about AOL and other large corporations trying to corner the local content market-

    Internet Plans to Repave Local Landscape

    framingham.com is still here… “AOL’s Digital City”, “Hometown AOL” and the rest of it’s attempts at “local” aren’t — and there are more than a few people who remember trying to cancel subscriptions and being billed forever, or working for AOL and not being paid, or investing in AOL and finding out they were scamming investors (fined $2.65 Billion by the SEC, the #2 class action suit ever at the time). Good luck to Patch.

    Comment by Randy Harris — November 12, 2010 @ 12:13 am

  4. I wonder if the serfs those dastardly corporate overlords hire as editors *also* make rudimentary grammatical errors, such as confusing “it’s” with its” or “who’s” with “whose.” o_O

    Comment by Don Johnson — November 12, 2010 @ 9:35 am

  5. I am on the Cape so no, I’m not local to Framingham. I wrote my post on my phone so I’m sorry for the errors. Though as Don points out, you’re not above making them too.
    Unfortunately I have no connection to AOL’s money — I could sure use some of it. But as a journalist I’m not offended by their venture and actually hope it succeeds. As everything and everyone else in this business is downscaling, they’re the only ones actually investing in it. More power to them.
    And from everything I have read about Patch, they’re not exactly hiding their affiliation with AOL.

    Comment by Beth — November 12, 2010 @ 11:19 am

  6. Thinking the name of this town is “Framington” is not the kind of typo someone makes because they are using a phone, (it is something someone from Connecticut would do though). And it seems a bit suspicious that both you and “Don” visit this website, post comments to defend AOL, have never commented on any other article, and both of your IP addresses are from the western part of Connecticut.

    Comment by Randy Harris — November 12, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  7. Well my IP may show western CT but I’m in Dennisport. I checked out your site because my mother just moved to Framingham. But don’t worry, don’t think I’ll be returning. I’ll check out the Framingham Patch just for you.

    Comment by Beth — November 12, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  8. Before you post on Patch, make sure you read the Terms of Use page.

    Here’s a snip from the Your License to Patch section:

    “…you hereby grant Patch a perpetual license to use, redact, republish, copy, perform and distribute your Content and screen name, including any intellectual property contained therein, in any medium now known or hereinafter developed without payment or compensation to you and without seeking any further approval from you. We may further use your name, likeness, publicly accessible biographical data and any other information in connection with such use of the Content. You acknowledge that our use of your Content may include licensing such Content to third parties and/or using such Content for advertising purposes. In no event shall we be required to seek your approval or provide you with any compensation in connection with such uses…”

    (snipped from /terms on 11/12/2010, Patch Terms of Use, last updated August 20, 2009).

    …framingham.com would never sell, share, or otherwise use your content without your knowledge and permission, and our policy has always been “if we make money and you helped, you get your fair share”, anything else would be un-American.

    Comment by Randy Harris — November 12, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

  9. I have lived in Framingham my whole life. It is still a large town, not a city because we vote it that way. I am a local business man. I have payed for local ads over the years in many publications and I would like to keep our local ad revenue local. Not out of state to CEO’s. Why doesn’t Patch have the AOL logo on every page? My Co. will not be paying them for ads.

    Doesn’t everybody remember having AOL as the first internet provider?
    (I sure remember how it slowed all my computers down in my house with all the “garbage” they ran..and knew it)
    We don’t need them in Framingham like that!

    Comment by Kenny — November 13, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  10. I find your comments very unprofessional and mean spirited. Cutting something else down to bolster your own image is very junior highish. Regardless of larger AOL alledged problems, why can’t you believe that the Editor and writers are trying to present interesting information about Framingham events for all the right reasons. Your comments do not reflect well on your website.

    Comment by PJ — November 13, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  11. I’ve been posting information online for almost 25 years — 10 of it before the “www” was invented.

    I am not too worried that this article will hurt my reputation.

    AOL has such a bad reputation it can’t even show its face or use its own name online anymore.

    It’s all about ethics.

    Since the only comments defending AOL on this article are from people who have never posted before — I am going to require anyone else who comments (on this article) already be a registered user, or post using their real name.

    You can email or call me directly, (Randy Harris, 774-279-6731, office@framingham.com), if you want to comment but have a reason for not wanting your name shown – like the other people who have called and emailed me personally this week after they interviewed for patch jobs but got “bad vibes” and turned down the work — but don’t want to trash them online since they know people who are taking the work.

    Comment by Randy Harris — November 14, 2010 @ 2:28 am

  12. Great article and research Randy. Patch, ReachLocal, Yodle and others are “local washing” attempts, aimed at getting an early lead in the gigantic local business market that is now warming up to advertising online.

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by benito — November 16, 2010 @ 1:48 am

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