AOL is set to launch an extra 500 local websites in 2010.

The sites will be launched under AOL's 'Patch' umbrella, with AOL aiming to quintuple Patch in size by the year-end

Patch was acquired by AOL last summer. Patch president Warren Webster has revealed AOL's plans to hire 500 more reporters in 20 US states, as part of a $50m investment to expand the network of local sites.

Patch is yet to reveal its plans for local UK and European sites. TechRadar has contacted AOL for further information on this front.

Local sites, for local people

AOL's plan for Patch is to establish it as the online destination of choice for users seeking local maps, reviews and other types of localised and regional information.

"We think local will be an important part of future," claims AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.

Executive Vice President for AOL Local Jon Brod, who was also a Patch founder, claims that Patch is filling a need for information and reviews at the community level.

AOL is of course not doing this out of some concern to improve the community. It is doing it because it sees a major commercial opportunity, a potential $20 billion of local online advertising.

"It's the largest commercial opportunity that has yet to be won," adds Brod.

Andy Chapman, head of digital trading at media agency Mindshare, remains steadfastly on the fence when it comes to local advertising opportunities for AOL.

"It's not clear to me whether there is enough interest. The jury is still out."

Via Reuters