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NBC shuts down EveryBlock hyperlocal community news site

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:17AM



EveryBlock, the Chicago-based Web data pioneer, announced Thursday that it has shut down.

In a blog post, the site said: “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.com was created by Chicagoan Adrian Holovaty, made possible by a $1.1 million grant awarded in May 2007 by the Knight Foundation as part of the Knight News Challenge. At its beginning, the site amassed public information from nine different cities and presented detailed news about very specific locations.

By entering an address, neighborhood or ZIP code in those cities, users could access recent public records, news articles and other geographically relevant Web content.

In 2009, the site was sold to MSNBC.com as part of its investment into “hyperlocal” news and information. By that time, EveryBlock had expanded beyond Chicago to 15 cities including New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston.

NBC News took ownership last year after acquiring MSNBC.com.

NBC News Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller said Thursday that the site, which was operating in the red, was no longer viable for the company.

“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. . . . In the end, we didn’t see a strategic fit for EveryBlock within the portfolio,” she told staff in a letter forwarded by spokeswoman Meghan Pianta.

Schiller later told the Chicago Sun-Times that EveryBlock simply “did not have a sustainable business model. None of this is a knock on the talent and creativity of the EB staff and the work they did, nor the value the site provided to communities.”

Holovaty, who left EveryBlock in August 2012, wrote on his blog that he was “very saddened” by the NBC News decision.

“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,” Holovaty wrote.

Holovaty said the site had 10 employees, all of whom were let go. But Schiller told the Sun-Times that NBC News would help them find other positions in the company.

Many site users and industry observers were surprised and disappointed.

“This was so sudden. No warning. Does not make sense,” Giovina Romandine of Portage Park wrote on the site. “Is there anything similar out there? I will need my EveryBlock fix!”

Charlie Meyerson, a Roosevelt University adjunct professor and longtime Chicago radio and Web journalist, wrote on Holovaty’s blog: “The journalism world owes you and your (former) colleagues a debt of gratitude for blazing this trail. EveryBlock won’t be forgotten, and its work will light the way for others to follow.”

Others took Schiller to task for the sudden shutdown.

“Is there a reason your team couldn’t alert users to a transitional period? A heads up? Some respect for the community?” user Blagica Bottigliero complained in one of several angry tweets that fans of the site fired off at Schiller.

Schiller tweeted in response: “I’m a big believer in Adrian’s original vision and the EB team. It was a tough call.”



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