It’s not easy trying to make money as a hyper-local network these days (just ask AOL’s Patch), but in a surprising move, NBC just announced that it is shutting down EveryBlock, the Knight Foundation-backed news and information site MSNBC acquired in 2009. In an email to Poynter.org, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of NBC News Vivian Schiller wrote that the service “wasn’t a strategic fit with our growth strategy and — like most hyperlocal businesses — was struggling with the business model.”
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.
EveryBlock launched during the heady days of what many expected to be a revolution around local news. The service received a $1.1 million grant from the Knight Foundation in 2007 and was then snapped up by MSNBC in 2009. The idea behind the site was to provide citizens with local information about their neighborhoods. EveryBlock aggregated public records and local news and offered a forum for neighbors to talk to each other.
The service’s founder Adrian Holovaty left the site last August. On his own blog, Holovaty notes that he “had no idea NBC News would be shutting [EveryBlock] down” when he left. Indeed, he expected it to be around for a “long, long time” and his feeling was that NBC was “optimistic about the site’s future.”
If you are totally heartbroken about the site’s demise, the good news is that you can still download the original open-source code the team uploaded three years ago and start your own attempt at revolutionizing local news and information. Just know that it’s really hard to turn this into a profitable business.