New York — In a surprising move AOL Inc., which has been investing immensely heavily in content to bolster-up its dawdling sites for declining revenue, today announced that it has appointed Rachel Fishman Feddersen, as an executive for the newly created position of Chief Content Officer for its struggling Patch platform catering to over 850 hyper-local news network.
The move comes as Patch’s rapid growth to being a top-5 property in comScore’s regional/local category. The company said that Fishman Feddersen will assume the position at Patch in the new role reporting to Jon Brod, head of AOL Local, effective February 14.
Fishman Feddersen will manage the Patch consumer strategy and develop calibrated content and product initiatives to help deliver the most robust user experience across the Patch platform. Besides, she will work closely with national, regional and local editorial leadership, as well as Patch’s product and engineering teams and AOL and Huffington Post Media Group, she will help screen through valuable insights from Patch users to drive innovation in product and programming.
“Rachel is a world-class expert at captivating online audiences and connecting communities with the information they care most about–which is the cornerstone of Patch’s mission,” said Jon Brod, President of AOL Local, Mapping and Ventures and a founder of Patch. Rachel has incredibly impressive experience in understanding the power of digital platforms, so to add someone of her caliber to our team is an important milestone in Patch’s continuing growth trajectory.
Fishman Feddersen conjoins Patch from The Parenting Group, where she most recently served as Editorial Director, Digital Content, Strategy and Design, responsible for all digital development of the Parenting, Babytalk and Conceive brands and their online extensions.
Under her leadership, the sites accomplished record-breaking growth and won numerous industry honors and awards. Fishman Feddersen was named Media Industry Newsletter’s Digital Content Strategist of the Year in 2010 and was inducted into the Media Industry Hall of Fame in 2011.
“I could not be more thrilled to join Patch,” said Fishman Feddersen. “Patch has tremendous opportunity to change the way people consume and share information on a local level, and I am very much looking forward to working with the residents of Patch communities, our editors, and the rest of the team to create the type of experiences that will attract and delight the Patch audience.”
In fact, Feddersen’s appointment comes on the heels of such a crucial moment in Patch’s most recent earnings call for investors where AOL CEO Tim Armstrong profoundly defended the company he co-founded, which according to some experts and insiders, is encountering an estimated losses of $150 million, a lightning rod for investor frustration, and overall under-performance.
“Patch is under-performing,” said Ken Doctor, media analyst at research and consultancy firm Outsell and author of the book “Newsonomics.”
“It is halfway from where it needs to be in terms of revenue and user experience,” he added.
Armstrong started pursuing Feddersen to Patch after inviting her to speak on a panel during Advertising Week in the fall and being impressed by her thoughts on reaching mothers through digital media.
“He did not have to do much promotion,” Feddersen, a 41-year-old married mother of two, told Reuters. “I am a regular Patch reader who lives in a Patch town. I came to this as a believer.”
“I have known Rachel for some time and we have been communicating for some time about how she might be able to contribute to Patch; she has got fantastic insights and a ton of experience with all the things we really care about,” added Brian Farnham, Patch’s Editor-in-Chief. “Having her join our team is truly exciting and I cannot wait to start working with her.”
While Feddersen’s role is still being outlined, she said she sees her job as crafting a cohesive strategy that takes the elements of what works best locally and weaving those principals into coverage across Patch’s network of sites. Essentially, she is looking for a bottom up–not top down–content strategy.
“Our editors have so much local knowledge,” said Feddersen, who has a deep history in local digital media as one of the six original editors of Metrobeat, which morphed into CitySearch. “Patch is the best realization of the hyper-local concept I have seen.”
AOL acquired Patch in 2009 after appointing Armstrong, raising speculation that personal rather than business interests motivated the deal. “Patch is not a pet project,” Armstrong defiantly declared on AOL’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week.