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NBC Closes EveryBlock
February 7, 2013 10:37 AM   Subscribe

NBC abruptly closed the popular hyperlocal news site EveryBlock today, surprising founder Adrian Holovaty (who left last year).

In the comments on the blog post announcing the closure, users are surprised and upset. No provisions were made for users to access or export their existing data, such as upcoming events or information on their contacts on the site.

We previously discussed EveryBlock when it went live in 2008.
posted by enn (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This does not bode well for Community.
posted by srboisvert at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow. I've mocked my neighbors for questioning whether or not every firework or car backfiring is a gunshot, but other than that, EveryBlock was obviously super useful for a lot of people. In fact, my partner was supposed to go to a book group organized through it this weekend.

And, curious, I went to my email to see what would happen to the old events/news/discussions if I clicked on the links. And it's all just gone and directing to the linked blog post. "Abruptly" is right.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got an account there early on but only ever used it for "what was that thing I saw being filmed on my street" and "anyone know when that restaurant will finally open," and it was helpful for that purpose. It seemed to have caught on in Chicago but not really anywhere else, so naturally NBC had to shut it down.
posted by theodolite at 10:51 AM on February 7, 2013


I liked the idea of Every Block more than I ever actually used it, which I guess was part of the problem. I'd check it every now in then when I had a very local question (usually, "what were those cop cars doing") but I didn't find the parade of information about people requesting bulk trash pickups to be that helpful on a day to day basis.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:52 AM on February 7, 2013


The code for the original site is open source. Another friend and I (both friends of one of the founders) are considering restarting it, but only for Chicago.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


I loved the service. Looked forward to the daily email with reviews of local businesses and new houses up for sale. Discovered lots of local flavor - for free! What they needed was local ads mixed in with the rest.
posted by SkinnerSan at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad the code is open.

I'm going to reiterate my Glum Facts About Your Cool Startup (CC-By-SA):

1. if you can't receive revenue from your first user, you won't survive

2. if you start free and then start charging later, all your users will go apeshit and then someone will create an open source copy of your website out of pure spite and everyone will hate you forever

3. if you think you need a big company to make money, you won't make money

4. if you sell to a big company and aren't already making money, they will quickly discover that you aren't making money and shut you down as soon as possible

5. if you just sold your not-yet-profitable company, take the money. Run. Bury your dream. Get as far away from the company as possible and never, ever look back.

Where was EveryBlock's founder today? Far... far away at some other company. He knows the game!
posted by sixohsix at 11:11 AM on February 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


It looks like the code is one of those contractually obligated open source things that just gets tossed over the fence and left alone. That's sad, but that's corporate America for you.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:13 AM on February 7, 2013


Yeah, the open source version is not actively maintained and not really very similar to the state of the current site up until today.
posted by enn at 11:16 AM on February 7, 2013


Where was EveryBlock's founder today? Far... far away at some other company. He knows the game!

What a callous thing to say -- and apparently not at all true, judging by (MeFi member) Adrian Holovaty's post about the closure. But you go right ahead with your presumptions.
posted by me3dia at 11:25 AM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


So NBC bought them during that hyperlocal is is the future gold rush, back when people were saying the LA Times should close all its foreign desks and just cover muggings and little league games right?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The code is open source but only just barely, it's a one-time dump with no community or maintenance. It's great to have something to start with, and I love the Knight Foundation's insistence on source releases for projects they fund. But it's a long way from a real open source project.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to Patch, another hyperlocal news startup that got bought. By AOL in this case. It still seems quite vibrant in certain places, particularly in the northeast. It had great coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, for instance. But it's not exactly a burning hot success.

(And the snide comment above is shameful. Maybe read the fine linked post from the founder before trotting out cynical assumptions about the founder?)
posted by Nelson at 11:42 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good journalism is the lifeblood of democracy.

Except when there's money to be made, then screw that noise.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


A huge number of people in Minnesota use a hyper-local site called E-Democracy. Like Metafilter it is a barely-sustainable labor of love by just a few people, and its technology is nothing fancy. But it's got a critical mass of users, so if I want to know what's the deal with that foreclosed house at the end of my block, I can just post a message and get an answer. It really contributes a lot to a sense of community.
posted by miyabo at 11:54 AM on February 7, 2013


Nelson: "It'll be interesting to see what happens to Patch, another hyperlocal news startup that got bought. By AOL in this case. It still seems quite vibrant in certain places, particularly in the northeast. It had great coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, for instance. But it's not exactly a burning hot success."

I can't even imagine that that investor pitch must have been like:
"Imagine....a newspaper run by the people who typically comment on local newspaper websites!"
posted by schmod at 11:57 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd guess NBC bought it in order to kill it.

The last thing the average corporation would want is for people to have a place to talk about what's going on right around them, and then begin to compare notes with like-minded groups of people around the country.
posted by jamjam at 12:04 PM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember back when this was chicagocrime.org and it was actually quite useful when thinking about neighborhoods for housing. Sad day.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:09 PM on February 7, 2013


In Davis we have the daviswiki, an amazingly useful site put together by the folks who then made localwiki.org.
posted by aniola at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2013


Most within the news-dot-com industry knew that MSNBC.com (and especially their new NBC News overlords) were bored with Everyblock. I find it hard to believe that anyone connected to that industry would be "OMG SURPRISED!" that NBC is shutting down Everyblock. Unlike Newsvine, which was also bought by MSNBC.com in the 00s, Everyblock was never integrated into the larger MSNBC.com/NBCNews.com experience.

And for what it's worth, there are still "big J" journalism types upset that the Knight Foundation gave Holovaty a $1.1 million grant to start Everyblock. At the time, a lot of journalists said the hyper-local craze was an expensive distraction. Most of those journalists have since been laid off, but I think they were right.

And those journalists were also upset when Everyblock's grant ended and the Everyblock code libraries were tossed over the wall into Google Code. And those journalists were also upset when Everyblock was sold to Microsoft/NBC and people realized that the foundation had not retained an equity stake and would not share in the proceeds.

I'm not sure how those journalists will feel today about Everyblock closing.

Personally, I'm sad to see them go.
posted by joe vrrr at 12:14 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


"It'll be interesting to see what happens to Patch...

Patch is hemorrhaging money though. I wouldn't count on them being around long term.
posted by COD at 12:24 PM on February 7, 2013


For those playing by the "oh, another startup shut down" script, worth pointing out that EveryBlock was acquired by MSNBC in 2009, and the founder (Adrian) stayed on for three years past that. Judging from reaction and previous news on the project, I think this came as a surprise to the team working on it, and was more in the nature of "corporate higher-ups decided to end a project".

(disclaimer: I know people who've worked on this, including Adrian)
posted by ubernostrum at 12:30 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


aaaaaand this is the first I've heard of it.
posted by telstar at 12:35 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing I don't understand is why throw away all the content? It really isn't expensive to make the site static and just leave it up.

Weird decision.
posted by srboisvert at 12:52 PM on February 7, 2013


It was certainly a laudable project, and the founder did stick with it after the acquisition, but seeing as he left just 6 months ago he may have seen the writing on the wall, or it could be that there was no longer a champion within NBC to keep it going after he was gone. Maybe a bit of both.

Shit happens, he devoted 5 years to the site, Can't fault to guy for wanting to so something new.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:56 PM on February 7, 2013


seeing as he left just 6 months ago he may have seen the writing on the wall

But he didn't! It's right there, in the second link in this post, the founder's own words! Since no one posting to this thread seems to be able to find that post, let me quote the relevant bit
I left EveryBlock in August, after five years, as I was itching to make something new. I had no idea NBC News would be shutting it down (in fact, at the time, 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.
posted by Nelson at 1:10 PM on February 7, 2013


I left EveryBlock in August

August isn't 6 months ago?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:18 PM on February 7, 2013


At any rate, August 31 2012 was his last day. however many months ago it was, it has been less than a year since he left.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:23 PM on February 7, 2013


Yes, but as the founder's blog post clearly says, when he left roughly six months ago he had no idea it was going to be shut down. That totally contradicts speculation that "he may have seen the writing on the wall". And as the founder says "a few months after I left" he still didn't know that EveryBlock was going to be shut down.

Maybe you're interpreting his blog post differently. If so, at least you are reading his blog post.
posted by Nelson at 1:32 PM on February 7, 2013


Ok, ok. Maybe he was truly surprised, I tend to take resignation announcements with a grain of salt. It is still the case that with him gone there may have been no will to keep it open.

In any case I am not faulting the founder, this stuff happens. I don't know the whole story or have any info so I'll STFU and stop speculating about any writing on any walls.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:41 PM on February 7, 2013


BTW, what I linked to was his announcement on August 15th ,and to his new startup soundslice. Check out his YouTube channel too, he is a really impressive guitarist.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:50 PM on February 7, 2013


They were funded for the first two years by a grant, and then their business model going forward was "be bought by MSNBC". It doesn't seem like there was any real long term plan for making enough money to even be self-sustaining (otherwise why get bought out buy MSNBC in the first place?)
posted by smackfu at 3:56 PM on February 7, 2013


I didn't realize how bad my neighborhood really was until I signed up for the EveryBlock daily digest. So with that gone, maybe I can regain my lost naivete. (I might have been using it wrong, but it did seem to repeat a lot of crime reports.)
posted by Bron at 7:23 PM on February 7, 2013


Once you realize that a newspaper, online or not, is meant to show you ads from paying businesses and that the 'news' is the side product, you'll realize that it makes sense that these Hyperlocal sites won't survive.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 10:45 PM on February 9, 2013


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