NEW YORK — AOL says it is laying off up to half the work force at its Patch local news sites and shuttering or consolidating roughly 150 of the 900 sites while looking for partners for others.

Up to 500 of Patch’s 1,000 employees will go in the layoffs, which started on Friday. In all, the layoffs amount to about 9 percent of AOL’s total work force of 5,500.

AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong co-founded Patch, an ambitious experiment in local news meant to compete with newspapers, in 2007. AOL bought it in 2009 after Armstrong had taken over the helm of the New York-based Internet company.

But media analyst Ken Doctor says Patch ran into the same problems that newspapers had already discovered – that it’s expensive to cover local news.