Patch, AOL's attempt at a national network of community sites, recently went live in Needham, giving that town's online news consumers three different places to read about Peter Smulowitz and the guy charged with trying to kill his young child - whom Wicked Local says is a girl, Boston.com's Your Town says is a boy and Patch says is a child.
All three sites are very similar in what they seem to be doing: News, sports, calendar listings, information about the town (Patch helpfully notes which officials are "important officials"). In other words: Recreating a traditional weekly community newspaper, from back in the day when stuff like that was called "local" insteady of "hyperlocal." Wicked Local and Your Town have more depth at this point, having been around longer, and their writing is a lot more polished. Wicked Local is bloggier, Patch makes its employees volunteer in the town and is encouraging local folks to generate some user content (i.e., write for free), Your Town links to stuff on other sites (and has what appears to be dead forums - the most recent post was from almost two months ago).
Ultimately, of course, the question is whether even a well off town like Needham can support three full-time Web sites - are there enough advertisers who want to reach those 30,000 people?
If you live in Needham, how do you get your local news these days?
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