by Joe Mandese

Patch, the hyperlocal news publisher that spun out of AOL in 2014, is gaining traction and building a loyal audience base using a combination of community news, conventional subscription models, as well as integrating with a diverse array of news feeds and aggregators.

The turnaround, which has largely been grassroots and under the radar, may come as a surprise to people on Madison Avenue, concedes CEO Warren St. John, who describes one such recent encounter in which an executive said, “I didn’t know patch was still around.”

“That’s happening less and less,” St. John says, as the company begins shifting from turnaround mode to a promotional one, though it still is largely word-of-mouth.

In a briefing with Digital News Daily, St. John cited some significant publishing thresholds, including an audience of 27.5 million unique monthly users, a gain of 25% year-over-year.

Importantly, he says the growth has been completely organic.

“We don’t buy traffic,” he explains, asserting that the gains are coming from the local community content it publishes.

He says Patch has more than doubled its editorial team to 110 full-time and a few dozen freelancers and contractors, and that many of the new additions are seasoned news community news journalists cast-off from the implosion of daily and community newspapers that have gone under or cut back in recent years.

As important as news content has been in the turnaround, St. John takes equal pride in Patch’s reinvigorated engineering team, which has rebooted almost every facet of its platform, including its internal content management system, and how it distributes and syndicates its content to other platforms and news feeds, as well as emerging paltforms such as Amazon’s voice-activated AI device, Alexa.

Patch also relaunched its “front-end” Web publishing experience and a new iOS version of its app and it is poised to launch its first Android app.

St. John says the company is just beginning to make more noise on Madison Avenue and major national brand advertisers. It recently named former Wenner Media Executive Director of Digital Sales Matthew Schulte as its senior vice president of sales.

“Until now, we didn’t feel confident that we had a product that we could go out and sell to brands. I think we’re at that point now,” he says.

This article was originally published on MediaPost.