EveryBlock, a national news aggregator that allowed users to search for hyper-local stories based on address, Zip code or neighborhood, ceased publishing today, according to a blog post on its website.
“Within the world of neighborhood news there’s an exciting pace of innovation yet increasing challenges to building a profitable business,” goes the site’s farewell post. “Though EveryBlock has been able to build an engaged community over the years, we’re faced with the decision to wrap things up.”
In an email to Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, Vivian Schiller of NBC News, the company that owned EveryBlock, explained that the site “wasn’t a strategic fit with our growth strategy and — like most hyperlocal businesses — was struggling with the business model.”
What EveryBlock pioneered was the idea of making block-by-block information — the type of minutiae that might make it onto a neighborhood blog but not necessarily into a city’s daily paper — available in one place. The site was one of the first experiments to test the power of the Internet to harness civic engagement and spoke to a cultural hunger that continues to transform urban environments.
As founder Adrian Holovaty explained to Poynter back in 2008:
I don’t consider EveryBlock a competitor to traditional news outlets because we only include news that has to do with specific, granular locations — not citywide, statewide or nationwide news.
On EveryBlock, you’ll find out when your local pizza place is inspected, but you won’t find an analysis of the mayoral budget or Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (unless they plan to build a stadium near your house).
The tool also let users filter news by category, narrowing their search by topics like crime or restaurant inspections. It predated other hyper-local news networks, such as AOL’s Patch, and likely set the stage for regional newsroom/community news network hybrids, such as the shuttered TBD.com in the Washington, D.C. area and the newly launched AxisPhilly in Philadelphia.
Apparently, news of EveryBlock’s end came as a surprise to Holovaty, a web developer and journalist whose previous projects include the free web framework Django and chicagocrime.org, an early data-mapping site that was online from 2005-2008. In a separate blog post, Holovaty writes that he “had had no idea NBC News would be shutting [EveryBlock] down” and notes that, “[t]he last time I talked with an NBC News representative, at a conference a few months after I left EveryBlock, he indicated that NBC was optimistic about the site’s future.”
Holovaty launched EveryBlock in 2007 with a $1.1 million grant from the Knight Foundation. Initially serving his hometown of Chicago, the site eventually expanded to another 15 cities. It was sold to MSNBC in 2009. The comments on its farewell post have, as of this writing, topped 450 in number.
UPDATE: Sonderman reports that NBC hasn’t ruled out selling EveryBlock, and has gotten interest from potential buyers since the announcement of the website’s shuttering. If a deal does get hammered out, the site could be back up and running in the near future.