NBC closes hyperlocal, data-driven publishing pioneer EveryBlock
NBC News has shut down EveryBlock, one of the early pioneers of data-driven hyperlocal community news and information.
The decision took effect today. Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and chief digital officer of NBC News, told me today by email: "[EveryBlock] is a wonderful scrappy business but it wasn’t a strategic fit with our growth strategy and -- like most hyperlocal businesses -- was struggling with the business model."
I asked Schiller about the questions many are raising online -- why not turn over EveryBlock to another operator or give supporters a chance to keep it going? She answered: "I understand that the Everyblock community is disappointed. So are we. We looked at various options to keep this going, but none of them were viable. It was a tough call to make."
The site started under a $1.1 million grant in the first-ever Knight News Challenge in 2007.
After the conclusion of its Knight grant, EveryBlock was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009 and the data-driven site relaunched with a community focus in March 2011. Ownership transferred to NBC News last summer when it acquired full control of msnbc.com.
Founder Adrian Holovaty left the company last August. At the time, he reflected upon major points of impact, including jumpstarting movements toward open data and custom maps, strengthening neighborhoods in the 16 cities it served and releasing source code that inspired other projects. The original open-source code predating Everyblock's acquisition is still available.
Holovaty also wrote last August about the move to msnbc.com:
Over the past three years (EveryBlock's post-acquisition period), msnbc.com has been a fantastic company to work for. With EveryBlock, it's managed to do something very rare: not only keeping it alive post-acquisition (which the acquired company cannot take for granted), but achieving the delicate balance of providing guidance/resources and keeping their hands off. Most acquisitions fail, and Charlie Tillinghast and the msnbc.com folks have bent over backwards to avoid that with us. I can't think of a better place for us to have ended up than msnbc.com.
Today Holovaty blogged that he did not expect this:
I had no idea NBC News would be shutting it down (in fact, at the time [in August], I said I expected it would be around for a "long, long time"). The 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.
... More than six years ago, I wrote a blog post that got some attention about how newspaper (and, really, journalism) sites needed to change. EveryBlock was an attempt at that kind of change -- in my eyes, a successful attempt. EveryBlock was among the more innovative and ambitious journalism projects at a time when journalism desperately needed innovation and ambition. RIP.
Despite the acquisitions, EveryBlock always remained an independent brand with a tiny NBC logo on the site the only visual evidence of its ownership.
Below is the full text of a note sent today to NBC staff from Schiller:
I’m writing to inform you that as of this morning, Everyblock has shut down its operations. EveryBlock was acquired by the Msnbc Digital Network in 2009. I'd like to thank Brian Addison and his team for all of the great work they have done with the site— providing an engaging user experience and an opportunity for people to connect with their neighbors and share hyper-local news and information.
As we continue to grow and evolve the NBC News Digital portfolio, we are focused on investing in content, products and platforms that play to our core strengths. The decision to shut down the site was difficult, but in the end, we didn't see a strategic fit for EveryBlock within the portfolio.
We will continue to support and expand in strategic areas; whether it's a flagship like NBCNews.com, a new venture like msnbc.com, a nimble startup like Breaking News, or other businesses with big ideas. As we move forward, I want us to be thoughtful about how we invest, taking a hard look at where we can and should win, and how we deploy the resources to make it happen.
Let's stay focused and keep up the good work.
A "Farewell, neighbors" post on the EveryBlock blog says in part:
It’s no secret that the news industry is in the midst of a massive change. Within the world of neighborhood news there’s an exciting pace of innovation yet increasing challenges to building a profitable business. Though EveryBlock has been able to build an engaged community over the years, we’re faced with the decision to wrap things up.
Here is some of the early reaction to the news: